BRUNSWICK — A woman who “adopts” families staying at the local shelter was among several people recognized June 17 at Tedford Housing’s annual meeting.

Also honored at the event that featured remarks by former Maine first lady Mary Herman were a local public policy advocate and a Bowdoin College student.

Patty Biggs of Brunswick began by donating bins of toiletries to the Tedford shelter and now helps families settle into new housing when they transition into the community.

“Once I received notification about families that were trying to move out of the shelter, I stepped in,” Biggs said. “My first family was a dad with four kids that were looking for housing outside of the shelter. The dad was able to rent a house but did not have the means to furnish the space. I bought all the furniture, all of the linens, cookware, clothing for the children, everything.”

At the event held at the Brunswick Golf Club, Biggs received the Scooty Brownell Award for her nine-year commitment. The award recognizes those who support Tedford Housing through financial donations, volunteer hours and advocacy and leadership.

“When you see Patty’s smile, you know good things are happening in our community,” Executive Director Craig Phillips said.

“We’re still very close,” Biggs said of the first family she adopted. “The kids and I still go out to the movies, out for dinners, and even to my house to swim in my pool. I still buy their clothes to help out. I didn’t do this for the recognition, I did this because I believe that the world is much bigger than us and I try to think much broader than myself.”

Mary O’Brien, of Brunswick, who also received a Scooty Brownell Award, has devoted nearly two decades of her life to community service through her public policy work around children and family services, as well as church and community-based volunteer work. O’Brien has also hosted community forums to tackle those issues.

“Sensing the community concern around this issue and being able to pull people together who are also interested in working on fixing this has been one of the most exciting things to see,” O’Brien said. “I’m pleased about the outcome that we’ve seen at our community conversations and at the interest and enthusiasm that we’ve seen from our residents.”

Working with Warm Thy Neighbor Emergency Heating Assistance earned Marilyn Sinskie of Harpswell the Margit Cook Award.

“I love working with the clients,” Sinskie said. “Being able to have them come in and help them stay warm for a little while is important. The connections that I’ve made are just wonderful because it’s not just about the services, it’s about the conversations and relationships that we have. Making that connection and making them feel welcome is why I continue to do this.”

Annie Rose, a rising senior at Bowdoin College who lives in Long Island, New York, received the Tedford Home Award by creating a student club to do arts and crafts with children living at Tedford Housing.

“Getting to know the community through the work at Tedford has been really exciting and rewarding,” Rose said. “Understanding the resilience of the community and the people that we work with at Tedford is inspiring to me. It is so nice to be receiving this award and it’s hard to see myself eventually having to move beyond this.”

Herman, the wife of U.S. Sen. and former Gov. Angus King, cited her daughter, Molly, for connecting her to the housing-first philosophy that Herman now focuses on. Herman said she believes that once a person has stable housing other contributing factors of long-term homelessness can be addressed, including mental illness, substance use disorder and family dysfunction.

“When you have housing first, then you can work toward getting people stable and back into society as they want to be, at whatever level they are capable of,” she said. “In Maine, we all care about each other and we check on each other.  It’s all about our community.”

Taylor Abbott can be reached at 780-9123 or [email protected] Follow Taylor on Twitter: @abbotttt.

Patty Biggs, right, of Brunswick receives the Scooty Brownell Award for supporting families from Tedford Housing Executive Director Craig Philips, left, and President Joyce McPhetres.

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