Twenty Biddeford JMG students are among 3,000 who received $100 grocery gift cards to help with food insecurity during the coronavirus pandemic. Courtesy photo

BIDDEFORD — With many families across Maine struggling as a result of the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, one organization has decided to undertake a measure to help students and their families.

JMG, which stands for Jobs for Maine’s Graduates, partnering with a number of companies and organizations, sent out $100 Hannaford gift cards on Friday, April 10 to 3,000 of the 11,000 students enrolled in the statewide program that has 143 programs around the state – about 20 of those cards were sent to Biddeford High School JMG students.

“While Maine’s K-12 public schools are continuing to provide free bagged breakfasts and lunches to students by scheduling pick up times, and even school bus deliveries, food insecurity continues to rise,” according to a JMG press release.

“These gift cards will help our students and their families with purchasing some essential items in a time of great stress and difficulty,” said Brian Heal, the JMG specialist for Biddeford High School. “Many Biddeford students, and students statewide, struggle to make ends meet even in the best of times. It is very important to support our students and their families, and in turn, our community when they need that help the most.”

“Students in all of the communities we serve have been telling their JMG specialists they are struggling with getting enough food and other critical household items,” said Craig Larrabee, JMG’s president and CEO.

“JMG serves as a bridge between public education and private business,” he said. “I reached out to the private sector because I knew its leaders would want to do something to support Maine students. Unum was the first to say yes, and others quickly joined forces.”


“Unum has supported JMG for more than 20 years,” said Unum’s Assistant Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility Cary Olson Cartwright.

“Unum has invested more than $1 million dollars, over the past decade,” she said, adding “our employees are very engaged with JMG students and specialists. We conduct mock interviews, host job shadows and provide speakers to various classes.”

Because of the existing relationship, “when Craig Larrabee called me to share what the JMG specialists were hearing from their students, we knew this was an opportunity for us to provide direct support to the students and their families during these uncertain times,” Cartwright said.

“Unum has learned from past investments that JMG specialists have a deep understanding of their students. JMG’s relationship-based network is one of the fastest ways Unum can get relief to our neighbors in need,” she said.

Bank of America also stepped up to donate to the cause.

The request from JMG met important standards, Bill Williamson, Maine president of Bank of America said. “We look for organizations that are really going to have an impact and make a difference, and that is why we contribute to JMG,” said Williamson. “It has the leadership, the scope of services, and scale needed. JMG is unique because it offers a full spectrum of support, and students know JMG is there for them.”


In addition to Unum and Bank of America, other corporate donors include: Hannaford Supermarkets, Procter & Gamble, Bangor Savings Bank, AT&T, Skowhegan Savings Bank, IDEXX, Machias Savings Bank, BerryDunn, E.J.Prescott, Pratt & Whitney, Kennebec Savings Bank, Hospitality Maine, Pike Industries and the Retail Association of Maine.

JMG also received assistance from the Harold Alfond Foundation, which agreed to provide matching funds ─ bringing total contributions to $300,000 to help JMG students overcome food insecurity. The Harold Alfond Foundation is committing additional resources to JMG to assist with anticipated emergency student needs caused by the pandemic.

“We consider JMG to be one of Maine’s anchor organizations making important contributions to the state and economy,” said Greg Powell, chairman of the Harold Alfond Foundation. “JMG’s rapid response is helping to meet the needs of students during these challenging times, while also ensuring these funds go directly back into local stores to contribute to Maine’s economy. We are pleased to make this worthy investment.”

JMG is affiliated with the national organization, Jobs for America’s Graduates, which has affiliates in 35 states. The organization has programs in middle schools, high schools and community colleges, Larrabee said.

The Maine program started in 1993.

“For the past 24 years JMG has been voted number one for outcomes,” Larrabee said of the organization which he described as a true public/private partnership.


Ninety-two percent of JMG students graduate on time, he said, compared to the state average of about 87 percent. After high school graduation, 85 percent of Maine students go onto higher education, enter the workforce or a combination of both, he said, compared to 80 percent nationally.

The JMG Program at Biddeford High School was one of the six original programs in the state. One of the founders of JMG was Joeseph Moreshead who owns Precision Screw Machine Products, Inc. located in Biddeford.

“The program is actually an elective course at BHS and is available to any student from ninth to 12th grade,” Heal said. “We have had approximately 2,900 kids come through JMG at Biddeford High School since 1993. We currently have about 50 students in the JMG Program at BHS. Our curriculum focuses on Employer Engagement and Career Readiness as well as Financial Literacy and Community Engagement.”

JMG “creates non-traditional opportunities for kids and help them become productive adults,” Larrabee said.

The program recruits “students who have a lot of potential but have barriers” which makes it difficult to succeed in a traditional school setting, he said.

The program teaches students leadership, career preparation, job skills, life skills and civic engagement, Larrabee said. It encourages students to give back to their communities and create a connection with their community.

“A big part of the program is our kids giving back, to make them feel part of the community,” Larrabee said. “Usually our kids are giving to the community. In this case, we’re providing to our kids.”

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