Inspired by Maine Development Foundation’s annual Measures of Growth Report, Mid-Maine Chamber (MMCC) decided to take a negative indicator and tackle it head on: fourth grade reading scores. MMCC recognizes that today’s students are tomorrow’s workforce and believes there is no such thing as “too young to start” when it comes to laying the foundation for literacy and lifelong learning.
With the generous support of SAPPI and Marden’s, MMCC purchases thousands of dollars’ worth of children’s books and activity books year-after-year. The organization distributes these books to attendees of the Festival of Trees and Kringleville at no charge. The Chamber also disperses these free books to other local agencies that support children and youth, such as Children’s Discovery Museum, Educare, Literacy Volunteers of Kennebec, Shine on Cass library at Alfond Youth and Community Center (AYCC), Waterville Rotary’s Little Free Libraries, and other local churches, nonprofits, and schools.
MMCC partners with Waterville’s Albert S. Hall School to promote attendance and character strengths for students. With the support of Waterville Rotary Club and Bangor Savings Bank, MMCC purchases quality items, such art kits, Legos®, jewelry making kits, soccer balls, basketballs, etc., for the school’s Core Store. MMCC and the school then recognize students who display core values, such as grit, integrity, and/or compassion and reward them with tokens that they can use to buy different items at the school’s Core Store. The program also teaches additional lessons related to savings and buying items with the tokens.
MMCC recognizes not all learning is achieved through reading (although that’s a big emphasis). Art and play foster creativity and tactile skills important for learning as well. To that end, the organization provides recycled materials to use as supplies in the classrooms at Educare Central Maine. This partnership gives access to quality early learning experiences prior to kindergarten for area littles, and it doesn’t cost the Chamber a penny.
Mid-Maine Chamber challenges area businesses and nonprofits to think creatively about how your place of employment can positively impact area youth as well.