Bath resident Jamie Dorr was named last week’s Difference Maker by the New England Patriots Foundation for her work with Midcoast Community Alliance. (Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record)

BATH — Jamie Dorr, president of the Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skate Park, knew she had to make a difference in 2016 when the community found itself grieving a young adult who took their own life. 

“We lost a young person to suicide who had essentially grown up (at the skate park), and it wasn’t the first time we had lost someone to suicide,” said Dorr. “I just felt we had to do something more than what our community was doing.” 

In the wake of the loss, Dorr brought together officials from local police departments, Regional School Unit 1, Mid Coast Hospital, the Bath YMCA and the Bath Recreation Department to help support Bath students. As a result, the Midcoast Community Alliance was formed to bring mental health awareness, advocating for those in need and expanding access to support. 

Three years later, the New England Patriots foundation named Dorr last week’s Difference Maker for her work with Midcoast Community Alliance. 

In January, the Midcoast Community Alliance began offering an after-school program at the Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skate Park, complete with adult mentors, homework clubs and art classes. The program is free, making it accessible for all students, which fills some gaps in support for students Dorr noticed within Bath area schools. 

“We have some really great programs for elementary school students, but once they reach high school or junior high school, if they’re not involved in a sport, there isn’t really a whole lot for them to do that is free, which makes it less accessible for a lot of students in the area,” said Dorr. “Right now we’re working on making sure this is a safe place and somewhere they can find any number of supports and be connected to their community.”

The youth center has free snacks, provided by the Bath Area Backpack Program, donated clothing and warm boots for children who need them. The program is available for students in grades six through 12, Monday through Thursday from 2-8 p.m.

Dorr also started a food train program after she noticed several children would stay at the skate park until it closed at 8 p.m. without eating dinner. The food train program relies on volunteers to provide meals twice a week for students in need.

“Just meeting the needs of students, whether it’s clothing, food, a caring ear, a place to connect and find friends, helping with the things that they’re dealing with … it’s a real honor,” said Dorr. “These kids are amazing and love to see them grow.” 

Dorr said the skate park and youth center saw about 400 young people ages six to 24 since January. She estimated anywhere from 70 to 90 students per day come to the skate park each day compared to 40 to 50 students the park saw per day last year. 

Dorr previously operated her own web design business but gave it up to volunteer at the skate park and Midcoast Community Alliance. She said her core mission is to make sure students have the resources they need in order to succeed and ensure no child ever feels like they’re alone with nowhere to turn. 

“I’m a mother of two teenage boys and it was shocking for me to realize the high level of depression and suicide ideation and anxiety that is found in Sagadahoc County,” said Dorr. 

Suicide is the ninth leading cause of death in Maine, and Maine’s suicide death rates increased 27% between 1999 and 2016, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 

According to Melissa Fochesato, director of the community health program at Mid Coast Hospital, 17.6 percent of Sagadahoc County high school students have reported that they seriously considered suicide in the past. 

“My only regret is not starting sooner because of the people we’ve lost and the kids that have grown up with mental illness that maybe needed additional support when they were younger,” said Dorr. “I want kids to know they aren’t alone and there are people who want to be there for them and help them navigate. Growing up isn’t an easy thing.” 

Dorr, who was nominated by the Midcoast Community Alliance board of directors, is one of 15 individuals who will be named Patriots Difference Makers throughout the season. The volunteers will be honored during a special ceremony at the Patriots’ final regular season home game against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, Dec. 29.  

“To be nominated by the people who see the amount of work that goes into it is really touching for me because they know the hours and they know I’m sending emails at 11 o’clock at night, so it makes me feel really good to know that they appreciate the work.” 

The New England Patriots organization encourages fans to nominate volunteers and difference makers in their communities. Nominations can be submitted to patriots.com/community

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