Letter to the Editor: 

The Bethel Nonprofit Collaborative (BANC) convened a community forum last month to celebrate the work of the collaborative and the nonprofit community in the Bethel area and focus on the priority areas identified by BANC members.  There were 33 attendees at the forum and they included students from Telstar High School and Middle School as well as representatives of the 19 nonprofit organizations that are members of  BANC.  Going forward BANC’s work will be focused on local foods, trail building and capacity building of  BANC member organizations.  

The Local Food Connection is building a movement in the greater Bethel region that encourages all community members to grow, prepare, serve, purchase and consume local foods.  The group supports garden and cooking education projects, including Telstar Middle School’s “GOT Farms” program, and helps bring farm fresh produce into schools and institutions.  It also works to increase access to local food by operating a buying club and promoting the Bethel Farmers Market.  Over the next several months the group will reach out to seniors, identify barriers to purchasing local food, invite area farmers to sell through the buying club, and conduct a community food assessment.  Amy Scott is the primary contact for the Local Food Connection which welcomes new members.  Please contact Amy at aefscott@gmail.com

Mahoosuc Pathways, a new nonprofit in the Bethel area, has assumed the lead in trail building.  Its work has focused on development of the Bingham land for recreational purposes, extending the pathway to Angevine Park to the west and Telstar High School/Middle School to the east.  Trail building also includes developing a plan for the pathway that would incorporate art installations, signage and interpretive materials. Landon Fake is the Executive Director of Mahoosuc Pathways; contact Landon at landon@mahooosucpathways.org .  

Another project that is being explored is a dog park.  Anyone interested in creating a dog park in the Bethel area should contact Steve Wight at swight@wightent.com or Judith Diamond at contessa@megalink.net .  

Key capacity building goals on BANC’s agenda include strengthening internal and external communications among  BANC members, offering training, and ensuring  BANC’s financial sustainability as well as that of  its members.  Contact Jessie Seymour Perkins, BANC Network Facilitator, if you have skills and an interest in strengthening  BANC and its member organizations.  Jessie’s email address is jsp@bethelmainenonprofits.org

BANC was formed in 2008 to encourage non-profits in the Bethel, Maine area to work together to improve the community.  BANC’s mission is to (1) contribute to the improvement and sustainability of the Bethel area through the unique assets of its non-profit organizations; (2) maximize the potential of the community’s educational, cultural, environmental, economic development, and health organizations; and, (3) support their collaborative initiatives.  For more information about BANC and links to its member organizations, visit www.bethelmainenonprofits.org

BANC welcomes new nonprofits.  Our members include The Western Mountain Senior College, Androscoggin River Watershed Council, Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce, Bethel Library Association, Bethel Outing Club, Bryant Pond 4-H Camp and Learning Center, District Exchange & Food Pantry, Gould Academy, Healthy Oxford Hills, Hope Association, Local Food Connection, Mahoosuc Arts Council, Mahoosuc Kids Association, Mahoosuc Land Trust, Mahoosuc Pathways, SAD 44, River Valley Healthy Communities Coalition, University of Maine Cooperative Extension (Oxford County), and Western Maine Economic Development Council. 

BANC A Team:  Steve Wight, Nancy Davis, Jessie Seymour Perkins, Landon Fake, Aranka Matolcsy, Amy Scott, Robin Zinchuk and Mia Purcell