The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program that honors youth for outstanding acts of volunteerism, named Isabel Berman, 17, of Cape Elizabeth and Charlie Austin, 14, of Brunswick as Maine’s top two youth volunteers. They are among 102 students to be recognized, representing the top two middle and high school volunteers from each state in the U.S. and the District of Columbia. 

As state honorees, Berman, a senior at Cape Elizabeth High, and Austin, an eighth grader at Brunswick Junior High, each will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., in May. Program judges also recognized Maine students Olivia Neely, 15, of Old Town and John Wahlig, 17, of Falmouth as Distinguished Finalists for their community service. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.

While in the nation’s capital, Berman and Austin and the other 100 state honorees will tour landmarks, meet top youth volunteers from other parts of the world, attend a gala awards ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, and visit their congressional representatives on Capitol Hill.

On May 4, 10 of the state honorees – five middle level and five high school students – will be named America’s top youth volunteers for 2020. These finalists will receive additional $5,000 scholarships, gold medallions, crystal trophies and $5,000 grants from Prudential benefiting the nonprofit charitable organizations of their choice.

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For the seventh year, the South Portland & Cape Elizabeth Rotary Club continues to provide assistance to Maine veterans, most recently donating $2,500 to the Huot House at Saco and Veteran Career House at Biddeford.

Operated by Volunteers of America, these two Maine facilities provide transitional housing for veterans who are rebuilding their lives and will be looking for employment and eventually permanent housing. A portion of this donation was used to purchase a computer that veterans can use for job hunting and housing searches, as well as to stay connected with family and friends. It also was used to purchase four new beds for the facilities.

Past donations have been used to purchase bus passes to help veterans attend daily medical and other appointments, the purchase of furniture, items for daily living, clothing and the like. Many of Maine’s homeless veterans have difficulty getting to medical appointments, job interviews and other obligations due to lack of transportation and money. And, many, who may be moving to their own transitional or permanent housing may be in need of rental deposits, beds, essential household items and other moving expenses.

For more information, or to donate to Maine veterans through the Rotary Club, please contact the Rotary Club’s Maine veterans chair Dan Davidson at [email protected] or 767-4682.



A total of 283 veterans were hired during the 2019 Maine Hire-A-Vet Campaign, exceeding the program’s goal for 100-plus  employers to hire 100-plus veterans during 100 days.

The Maine Hire-A-Vet campaign provides support for employers to expand the hiring of veterans through a network of state and federal agencies, resources and nonprofits, education on military language and culture, recruiting and hiring assistance and recognition for the hiring and advancement of veterans and military family members.

The 2019 campaign kicked off on Aug. 29 with a hiring fair at the Augusta Civic Center and ended on Dec. 9.

The average hourly wage of veterans hired was $22.78, and 254 employers signed on to the campaign. Every county in the state had veteran hires in them. Participating employers also sent 175 staff members to a “Veteran Hiring for Employers” training, which provides a “Basic Training” approach to aid businesses in recruiting, hiring and retaining veterans.

“Veterans have received valuable training during their military service that can transfer to in-demand civilian skills,” said labor commissioner Laura Fortman. “The Maine Hire-A-Vet Campaign helps connect veterans with employers, and employers with the skilled workforce they are looking for.”

The 11 businesses that had the most hires during the 2019 campaign were Bath Iron Works/General Dynamics, Northern Light Health, VA Togus -Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), the State of Maine, Dead River Company, Tilson, City of Portland, Casella Waste Systems, Helical Solutions, Maine Veterans’ Homes and Estes Oil.

The campaign has connected nearly 900 employers with over 1,300 veteran hires since its inception in 2015 and has been recognized as a best practice by the United States Department of Labor (USDOL) and the National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA).

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