Though the coronavirus pandemic continues, there are reasons to be thankful. We asked a few people, including Biddeford Fire Chief Scott Gagne, shown here, and others, their thoughts about that, this year. Russell Caron Photo/Courtesy Biddeford Fire Department

Thanksgiving Day is a bit different this year, but the foundation of the holiday remains the same. There are reasons to be thankful, and so we reached out into the community and asked a few people what they were thankful for, this year. Here is what they said, in their own words:

Biddeford Fire Chief Scott Gagne:

“I am thankful for many things. This past year has been extremely tough for me both personally and professionally. Each day seems to present us with new challenges. As a first responder, we are tasked with trying to do our best to balance our home life with the ability to be there for the public in their times of need.

As we move through this pandemic, I try to see some good within it, each day I am thankful for the opportunity to be able to help my community. I am thankful to be able to see the members of our department go above and beyond for each person that they help each day. I am thankful to be part of such a great team of professionals that day after day meet the challenges that are thrown at them and excel to the get the job done. I am also thankful to see the good in people that comes out in these uncertain times. I am thankful and proud to belong to an organization like the Biddeford Fire Department and the City of Biddeford.

On a personal level I am thankful for my family and friends, it has taken the challenges of this last year to help me see how lucky I am to have the people in my life that I have. As we all move through these challenging times in our lives, it is important that we stop and look at things from the 360 view and not just get angry and sad. We need to focus on the good things and look at how thankful we should be for what we do have and for the things that really matter in our lives.”

Biddeford Fire Department has responded to  3,349 emergency medical calls and 1,240 fire calls through Nov. 20.

Rev. Shirley Bowen, Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center, Biddeford: 

“What I am thankful for are the amazing citizens of this community who stepped forward when we put out a plea for help serving our neighbors in the pandemic. We never had to stop serving for a single day because those who were low-risk chose to help us provide meals and regular support to those we serve. They also respond to requests for items that will make others’ lives easier. Biddeford and Saco are generous communities.”

Since the pandemic lock-down in mid-March, Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center has served more than 7,000 meals to 343 unique individuals; more than 8,000 since January.

Lee Koenigs, director, Libby Memorial Library, Old Orchard Beach:

“As we move solidly into the Holiday Season, I have begun to take the time to reflect on the past year. It has certainly been a humdinger of pandemic, politics, and prejudice. It has challenged our beliefs, norms, expectations, and traditions, in ways not seen in more than three generations. The truth of 2020 is that we are experiencing life-changing history in the making, and history-making is not easy, smooth, or expeditious. Most notably, it is never without casualties. While we remember those who have been lost, those who are struggling and those who are living in fear, we must also take stock and be grateful for the gifts 2020 has bestowed upon us. Perhaps surprisingly, there have been many for our small-town library on the coast of Maine.

As the library director for Libby Memorial Library, I am incredibly grateful for the unwavering support of our town administration and Board of Trustees. Their support allowed us the flexibility to figure out how best to operate in a manner that would keep both staff and library users safe. I am grateful for the amazing Libby staff who have taken the issues presented by COVID-19 and used them to spark innovation. Previously unexplored approaches to areas such as programming and materials delivery were developed to meet the needs of our patrons in new and creative ways; on occasion more effectively than pre-pandemic. I am grateful that we are not alone in this, as Maine has a wealth of incredible public libraries, all working hard to provide the best service possible; while also sharing information and support with other libraries. I am grateful for the double and sometimes triple-checked guidance provided by the Maine State Library staff who always stay on top of the mountain of information that occasionally threatens to bury us. Primarily, I am so, so, so grateful for our amazing library users. Despite these trying, often emotionally exhausting times, our patrons have been wonderful, supportive, patient and most importantly have stayed, returned or joined the cool kids and become brand new members of the Library!”

Jim LaBelle, executive director, Biddeford + Saco Chamber of Commerce + Industry:

“This year, I’m especially thankful for the positive and proactive community spirit that so many people in the Biddeford and Saco region — and so many members of our Chamber of Commerce — both feel and act on every day. This disease we are all dealing with is scary and anxiety-provoking. We’ve all had to alter the way we go about everything we do. We’ve had to physically distance from one another since March. It would have been understandable if everyone simply retreated to the safety of their own homes and focused solely on staying healthy as their top priority.

But that didn’t happen. Despite all the challenges, we’ve seen countless examples of community and chamber members proactively, creatively, making a positive impact in the community, safely. Countless meals have been prepared and delivered to first responders. Civic organizations have proactively purchased and donated protective equipment and supplies for those in need. Almost everyone has been diligently adhering to CDC guidelines to help keep all of us safe. People in Biddeford and Saco have gone out of their way to support our local businesses, helping them out when they need it most. And everyone has had to make necessary adjustments to keep our economy functioning safely. This year, I’m more thankful than ever that so many people and so many chamber members have turned towards what is needed and necessary, not away from it, and stepped up to do whatever they can to help make a difference.

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