Autumn leaves crunch underfoot as a friend and I walk along a favorite trail through the woods. As I take in the fading greens and rich reds and russets and sharp blues of the marsh on a clear bright day, I breathe in the fresh air, stress slides off of me, cares and the persistent ‘to do’ list are forgotten. I’m filled with gratitude. We live in a beautiful, special place. I’m glad our town had the foresight to protect this patch of land for everyone to enjoy. On my way home, I stop at a farm stand and catch a glimpse of the farmer. As the growing season comes to an end, she takes a solo walk through her fields to give thanks for the harvest and the bounty that feeds her family and her community.

The gardens at the Hillcrest neighborhood, Blue Point Congregational Church, and St. Nicholas Church kept on producing this season well into October, maintained by volunteer gardeners. A neighbor stopped by the pantry with several heavy totes of luscious apples to share; he told me this year was a bountiful harvest and he was glad the pantry could take them. Another gardener brought bunches of nasturtium and dahlias tucked in with the other late blooming flowers – a welcome treat! The last of lush tomatoes from the garden at Blue Point were gratefully accepted, too.

Earlier this year Project GRACE earned a competitive grant from the AARP Foundation to expand the community garden in the Hillcrest neighborhood. The Lumbery in Cape Elizabeth built the new boxes from sustainably harvested Maine lumber. The Desfosses family put up the fence to keep the critters out, spread some chips to keep weeds at bay between the plots, and provided water to irrigate the plots. Benson’s Farm made the 12+ yards of rich organic compost that Jordan’s Farm delivered. Three college students had time — and energy! — to move it into the beds. Volunteers at Hillcrest garden for themselves and their families, and for the food pantry, often lending a hand to their fellow gardeners.

We also appreciate all who donate to our ‘fixings’ food drive for our friends at the Scarborough Food Pantry. Every year the Kiwanis Club donates turkeys to the pantry and we host a food drive to gather the traditional ‘sides and fixings’ like cranberry sauce and gravy and stuffing and instant mashed potatoes. This year the Scarborough Library volunteered to put out a convenient collection box so we could collect donations through November. A recent gift from West Scarborough United Methodist Church also allowed us to purchase what’s needed and help our neighbors with the essentials when times are difficult. A whole lot of gratitude for many helping hands!

Meanwhile, donations to help us purchase what’s needed are coming in online or by mail from friends like the West Scarborough United Methodist Church, who gave us an extra big gift this year to enable us to help our neighbors with food, fuel assistance, and the essentials to make tight budgets stretch a bit further.

We’re pleased to be working with our friends and neighbors to help us all keep a little warmer this heating season. We’re co-hosting a workshop on Nov. 19 at the Library for tips on how to snug up a drafty home to keep more heat in and more money in our pockets. A generous grant from the Prouts Neck Association and the AARP allows us to buy some basic DIY supplies like foam gaskets, window plastic, and weatherization tape. Biddeford Savings is chipping in totes, and our local ACE Hardware will make our precious grant dollars go further by helping us place a special order for more supplies. Rick, who serves on the Sustainability Committee, will bring the new Efficiency Maine tips booklet, info about rebates, and LED lightbulbs.

We are thankful for the bounty on our tables and the beloved friends and family gathered round to celebrate Thanksgiving. Soon we’ll see the giving trees popping up all over town (Big 20, Inn by the Sea, and Infinity Credit Union), overflowing with toys, socks, hats and mittens, and special wishes. Our ‘elves’ and ‘Santas helpers’ (community and Public Safety volunteers) are happy to pitch in to make sure kids in our town have a merrier holiday.

As we savor the time we have with those we love, we also give, a little or a lot, whatever we can of our time and dollars, so that others do not want. We are all glad to be part of something bigger, to play a part in creating and sustaining a compassionate community. As we practice mindful gratitude, paying attention to what’s making us happy and what’s making other people happy, too, I’d be curious to know what you’re grateful for. (Email or send a card to PO Box 6846, Scarborough ME 04070). Is there a Guinness Book of World Records for longest list of moments of gratitude? I bet Scarborough could win the title with ease!

We extend the warmest of wishes to all our neighbors, with the greatest of gratitude for the love and caring that shines so brightly now and throughout the year.

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