Local chef Ali Waks Adams is one of five chefs who will be teaching interactive monthly cooking lessons to raise money for Oasis Free Clinics in Brunswick. Courtesy of Alyssa Schoppee

BRUNSWICK — Oasis Free Clinics is selling access to live online cooking classes lead by local chefs as a fundraiser for the nonprofit providing free health care in the Midcoast.

Oasis Executive Director Anita Ruff said many nonprofit organizations have had to pivot this year and find different ways to raise money due to the coronavirus pandemic, “and we are no different.”

The Brunswick-based organization provides primary care, dental and mental health care and free prescription assistance, among other services, to those without insurance. It serves about 600 people in the Midcoast.

Oasis had canceled its planned 25th anniversary gala slated that was expected to raise $50,000-$60,000, according to Ruff. Other events projected to make $16,000 in the past fiscal year, ending June 30, made just $357.

There have been unexpected expenses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ruff said, including the purchase of personal protective equipment and upgrades to air and ventilation systems in the clinic.

In the medical clinic, there has been a decrease in medical volunteers.


Oasis has purchased a telehealth system so it can offer video appointments, which Ruff called the silver lining.

“Having access to that kind of system is helping our patients reduce their transportation barriers,” Ruff said.

The medical clinic closed in March and reopened in July, though patients were slow to leave their homes. In the fall, Oasis saw a spike of between 30 and 40 new patients. Ruff was promoting the fact that Oasis was taking new patients at that time as many folks were losing their jobs due to the pandemic.

Whether the demand will spike again in the future, “It’s hard to tell,” Ruff said.

The dental clinic reopened in September but is only opened one day a week instead of at least four. Oasis hired a dentist anticipating its volunteers would be slow to return.

The free dental clinic continues to be a limited commodity in the Midcoast and only Oasis members can access the service. Ruff said many dental practices don’t accept adult MaineCare, a free and low-cost health insurance for low-income households.


“If I could wave a wand and have $1 million, I would make us a full-time dental clinic too,” Ruff said.

Oasis got the idea to raise money with online cooking classes from online training about how to raise money during a global health crisis. Ruff has promoted the cooking classes as possible gifts during the holidays.

The cooking classes cost $75 each. The first class is Jan. 27 with Sam Hayward, the chef of Fore Street in Portland and who formerly worked at a restaurant in Brunswick.

The monthly classes will then feature Ali Waks Adams, the chef and produce of the Willie & Chet’s FOOD pop-up ag Dog Bar Jim in Brunswick; Nikaline Iacono, owner of Vessel and Vine; Christine Burns Rudalevige, food writer and editor of Edible Maine; and Isabella Mastroianni from Sanctuary Baking.

Adams, of Brunswick, said she jumped at the chance to teach a class. For her Feb. 10 class, she’ll be making a pan-roasted chicken with preserved lemon & olives and a winter vegetable tagine, a Middle Eastern dish unlikely to be on restaurant menus in the Brunswick area.

“I wanted to bring some exciting flavors and techniques and colors and textures,” Adams said. “Middle Eastern food is so sensual and it’s so deceptively simple.”

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