Sebago residents held a dedication ceremony for their memorial to the Maine lives lost to COVID-19 on Nov. 7, when there were 150 reported deaths. Since then, there have been at least six more. Emily Bader / Lakes Region Weekly

SEBAGO — By the time Wendy Newcomb, Anne McMahon and other volunteers returned home after hanging 148 wooden hearts on a pine tree — one for each Mainer who had lost their life to COVID-19 — there were already two more reported deaths.

“We were feeling like our community was isolated because of the pandemic,” Newcomb said on Monday. “We felt like we might be a bit divided as well, (and) this is something that could bring people together.”

Newcomb and McMahon started working on the memorial, located at the Sebago Veteran’s Memorial Park next to the elementary school, at the beginning of last month and by the Nov. 7 dedication ceremony, about 20 people had volunteered their time, money and supplies to create the memorial.

Organizers of the memorial said they will continue to add hearts, one for each Mainer who has died from COVID-19, until the pandemic is over. Emily Bader / Lakes Region Weekly

“Actually seeing how many hearts are up there really drove home how bad this is. You see that number on paper and it doesn’t look like much, but you hang up all of these hearts and … and all of a sudden you’re kind of impressed with how many lives were lost,” Newcomb said.

About 30 people showed up at the Nov. 7 dedication, including Sebago Center Community Church pastors Karen-Renee Moore and Fred Fortier, who offered prayers and sang “Amazing Grace.”

“Today our community is gathering to grieve the passing of 150 Mainers and nearly one-fourth of a million Americans to the coronavirus pandemic … Unfortunately, COVID has no respect or tenacity alone. The only way to fight this enemy is to follow the guidance of our scientists,” Moore said.

Newcomb said she was happy to see so many residents come out for the dedication, but was glad that there weren’t more people “given the circumstances.”

Maine has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases over the last couple of weeks, including Monday’s single-day record of 204 new cases. It has the highest transmission rate of any other state in the nation, according to a report in the Portland Press Herald.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported Sebago had 6 to 19 cases and Cumberland County had 584 active cases and 70 deaths as of the latest update.

In the Lakes Region, there are reported outbreaks at Saint Joseph’s College of Maine in Standish and at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham.

While memorials to the lives lost to COVID-19 have popped up across the nation and the globe, Newcomb said she wasn’t sure if there were any other Maine communities doing something similar.

“It really drove it home to sort of be together,” Newcomb said. “We had a moment of silence and to reflect. It made it feel more real.”

She said they will continue adding hearts to the memorial until the pandemic is over.

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