You would be hard-pressed to find an organization that is more bullish on our capitalist economic system than the Biddeford & Saco Chamber of Commerce & Industry. Providing incentives for people to do their best by following their passions and applying their work ethic and skills has resulted in progress, innovation and dramatically improved standards of living in our country for centuries. While it can be disruptive at times, the “invisible hand” of open markets, prices, and ever-changing supply and demand dynamics allocates capital and people organically and more optimally than any top-down centralized effort could ever manage.

Approximately 350 of our 400 Biddeford & Saco Chamber of Commerce members are for-profit companies. These local businesses employ thousands of people and contribute to the health of our communities in countless ways. They represent the backbone of our local economy, powering growth and success for both their owners, their employees, and collectively our two cities and surrounding towns.

However, it’s obvious that there are many aspects of modern life for which capitalism alone is not sufficient. The environment is a classic example of this; without forward-thinking legislation and limits on polluting activities, unfettered capitalism left to its own devices over the years has not been very Earth-friendly.

The biggest challenge with capitalism is not everyone gets to thrive or even participate fully or successfully for any number of reasons. People don’t start out with the same opportunities and advantages in life. Challenges such as addiction, alcoholism, family strife, societal inequities, and mental health issues along with many other factors result in many folks having a hard time making ends meet and functioning well in our complex modern economy. Unfortunately, to borrow a quote from Maine-born singer Patty Griffin: not everybody makes it to the loving cup.

Most people do learn to navigate our economic system and eventually succeed. If they are blessed, they might have life partners, loving families or close neighbors to enjoy life with and to help when needs arise. But in our vast country, most people are strangers to us; it’s impossible to help everyone in need on your own. Governmental efforts and programs address a lot of concerns, but public resources are limited and only go so far.

Fortunately, there are scores of nonprofit organizations in our communities that supplement what governments can provide. In our Chamber of Commerce, we have roughly 50 nonprofits and it’s been one of the most gratifying aspects of my role to get to know the amazing leaders and volunteers in these organizations. Local nonprofits provide educational opportunities, counseling services, assistance with health care, housing and hunger, civic events, spiritual support and so much more. They provide programs for children and teenagers, and assist the aged. They keep our heritage and history alive, and provide arts and entertainment options as well. While their missions differ depending on the organization, there is a common thread of service and a commitment to improving and enriching lives that is woven into the fabric of every nonprofit.


The people I’ve met who work at local nonprofits don’t just look away when they see problems, they act on their convictions. One of my favorite examples of the amazing mindset of nonprofits comes from the great team at Seeds of Hope, who work tirelessly to help those in need with basics that many of us take for granted, like a good meal, warm clothes and a roof over our head. They call everyone they interact with “neighbors”. In our fast-paced and transactional world where “others” are often deemed strangers to be leery of, isn’t “neighbors” just the loveliest way to think of everyone else you encounter?

Future generations will likely judge us not by how well the best of us did or how we performed as a society on average, but by how well we took care of those less fortunate among us. Thankfully we’ve got an outstanding group of nonprofit organizations locally that make a positive difference every day.

I encourage you to reach out to a local nonprofit that you have an affinity or passion for and see how you might be able to help them going forward. Every local nonprofit welcomes more involvement, so if you have time to volunteer, or skills and resources that can help them achieve their mission, I’m sure they’d love to hear from you. We have a list of local nonprofits at the Chamber of Commerce if you want more information.

In addition to helping make a difference, you might find it very fulfilling too on a personal level to contribute to a local nonprofit. It’s all part of what makes Biddeford & Saco such a uniquely wonderful place to call home!

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