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Grantee Spotlight

Vigorous Tenderness

Maine-native Kal Sugatski created Vigorous Tenderness in fall 2020, in the darkest days of the pandemic, to bring music to the community, bring people together, and to amplify the work of marginalized composers and performers. Kal, a classically trained violist, was frustrated when pandemic shutdowns forced performances out of concert halls and public spaces and audiences zoomed into a concert on a screen. Kal also saw that the way a community marks time, through milestones and celebrations, was compromised by the virus. Kal launched Vigorous Tenderness as an experiment to bring people together, in person, around music with four concerts each year scheduled around the solar calendar. Vigorous Tenderness concerts are outdoor events with a different Maine location for each performance. The audience's experience is more like an art museum visit than a traditional concert. Attendees receive a map and program notes when they arrive, and then roam from performance to performance along a trail, across a beach, or on a mountainside.

Each concert features as many as 20 vocalists, percussionists, and string musicians, performing music carefully selected to represent a diverse range of composers and to highlight the unique features of the setting. Kal spends hundreds of hours culling through a database of composers to curate a program specific to the time of year and the location. For example, at the 2024 vernal equinox performance at Laudholm Farm in Wells, Kal saw an opportunity to place musicians at a spot overlooking the estuary and have them perform an Inuit piece that has just two words. The Inuit words are from a specific dialect spoken in Greenland, one word describes the way sun reflects off water and the other describes how it reflects off snow. In some cases, Kal lets the musicians take the lead. For the Laudholm Farm performance, Kal asked a group of Wabanaki singers what they would do if they had access to classically trained musicians which resulted in a collaboration that interpreted 1,000-year-old songs into contemporary classical pieces performed onsite on historically Wabanaki land. The full vernal equinox program featured 21 Maine-based musicians performing in groups at eight locations throughout the farm and nature preserve. Vigorous Tenderness’ founder, Kal Sugatski, is committed to compensating musicians appropriately. The Cohen Foundation awarded an $8,000 grant to Vigorous Tenderness in spring 2023, and that grant supported the vernal equinox concert at Laudholm Farm.

Over the past four years, Vigorous Tenderness has built a roster of 90 Maine-based musicians and offered these unique, outdoor musical experiences at places like Range Pond State Park, Broad Turn Farm in Scarborough, Portland’s Eastern Prom, and a system of public wooded trails in North Yarmouth. The most recent concert, on the summer solstice, placed musicians along the trail at Mackworth Island, and more than 450 people attended. The next concert will be on the autumn fall equinox at a yet-to-be announced location. Vigorous Tenderness waited to apply for 501(c)3 status (which they received this summer) until they saw there was demonstrated community value for their program. They have also seen community support demonstrated through grants awarded from Onion Foundation, Maine Arts Commission, Nickels Fund, and Kindling Fund.


Maine Historical Society opened their exhibition “Music in Maine” on March 11 and the show is already drawing enthusiastic crowds. The exhibition is on view through December and includes instruments, artifacts, photographs, and opportunities to listen and view a wide range of musical styles and performances. “Music in Maine” illustrates how Mainers keep their musical traditions alive, with listening stations and opportunities to download music to your phone to hear historical and contemporary music from Maine. The audio lets visitors hear how traditional work songs can vary depending on the workers singing them with examples of lumberjack work songs of the Maine woods compared to sea shanties sung on the Maine coast. A section about how music is used in religious communities has a display of Shaker hymn books as well as a case dedicated to the role cantors play in Maine synagogues, including a QR code to scan to listen to recording of Sol and Paul Zimelman who were the sons of Cantor Samuel Zimelman of Shaary Tphiloh of Portland.

MHS’ curators worked closely with two Tribal Historic Preservation Officers for the Penobscot Nation and the Passamaquoddy Tribes to weave stories of Wabanaki music and musicians into the exhibition. Visitors can compare a 19th century European style flute to a Northern Block style flute whose roots date back at least 13,000 years in Wabanaki communities. Displaying the two together lets MHS explain how the Wabanaki flute is tuned to resemble a woman’s voice rather than using a European scale. Another section of the exhibition discusses opera and classical performers in Maine, with opportunities to listen to Lillian Nordica a world-renowned soprano from Farmington who debuted at the Metropolitan in 1898 and Lucy Nicolar, Penobscot Indian and mezzo-soprano, who performed across America as “Princess Watahwaso” (Princess Brightstar). Nicolar traveled the country, performing classical music in vaudeville shows. When she returned to Maine during the Great Depression, she focused on sharing and teaching Penobscot spiritual songs, which was illegal at the time. Nicolar disguised the educational events as tourist performances to keep the traditions alive.

Also on display are loans from community members like bluesman Buddy Guy's polka dot guitar, radio star Hal Lone Pine’s cowboy boots, and Firefly's (Penobscot) handmade silk coat worn while performing with the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, photos of dancers on the Dave Astor Show. The concluding installation has a listening station to hear contemporary music by Maine musicians like Patty Griffin, Ray LaMontagne, and Julianna Hatfield.

The Foundation awarded a $20,000 grant in the Fall 2023 grant cycle to support education programs for “Music in Maine.” MHS’s director of education is pleased with the early response to the exhibition. More than 200 students will visit “Music in Maine” in the month of May, and MHS looks forward to sharing the exhibition and programs through December.

Indigo Arts Alliance (IAA) was new to the Portland arts scene when they moved into their East Bayside studios in 2019, but their co-founders, Marcia and Daniel Minter, are well-known and well-respected in the arts and corporate communities. Daniel is a prominent artist whose work is included in museum collections throughout Maine and nationally. Marcia had served as Creative Director on campaigns for several major national brands, including a 16-year tenure as VP and Creative Director for LL Bean. Having experienced first-hand the marginalization of artists of color, the Minters created IAA to cultivate a community that wanted Black and Brown artists to succeed. The Foundation’s first grant to IAA was a small operating support grant of $5,000. At the start, IAA was an all-volunteer effort. Today, there are six people on staff, including executive director Jordia Benjamin who has an extensive background in museum education and was named one of Maine Biz Magazine’s “40 Under 40” leaders.

The growth in staff allowed IAA to expand programs and impact, and today the organization selects and hosts artists for residency programs that bring artists from across the country and around the world to Portland to mentor Maine-based artists. The Mentorship Residency Program hosts between four and five pairings each year for one and two-month exchanges. Along with the mentorship program, IAA launched the David Driskell Fellowship to honor artist/art historian David Driskell and create space and opportunities for Maine-based, BIPOC artists. The fellowship offers three-months of rent-free studio space at IAA’s studio, a small stipend, and connections to IAA’s vast network of curators, artists, and collectors. Since 2021, IAA has hosted nine Driskell Fellows, and in February all nine Fellows had their work on view at Seattle’s SOIL Gallery in an exhibition curated by IAA staff.

In Fall 2023, SLCF made a second grant ($10,000) to support IAA’s largest youth education initiative, the Beautiful Blackbird Children’s Book Festival. IAA launched the festival as a celebration of Ashley Bryan, a nationally recognized artist and author/illustrator who lived and worked in Maine. Bryan was dedicated to diversifying representation in children’s books and the festival shares that mission. The festival is now one of Portland’s most popular family events, with authors’ talks, art activities, and curriculum materials for use throughout the year. Family events take place primarily at the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine, where the permanent interactive exhibit in their Lunder Arts & Culture Gallery is based on Bryan’s book Beautiful Blackbird. Artist and author talks take place at IAA’s building and studios in East Bayside. In 2023 the festival expanded to MidCoast Maine, with events at the Farnsworth Art Museum, and it will extend to Waterville in 2024. IAA purchases and distributes picture books for 3,000 attendees in Portland, and the SLCF grant is directed to those costs. The 2024 Festival will be the fifth annual event.

Along with the Children’s Book Festival and residency programs, IAA is looking forward to continuing a partnership with Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens which brings Black and Indigenous artists and individuals from across the country and Canada to discuss those communities’ relationships with the land. In February they co-hosted a program with the Smithsonian focused on the legacy of slavery. Throughout the year, IAA continues to look for opportunities to link and connect their programs to communities in Maine and nationally.



Preble Street has a long history as one of Maine’s leading providers and advocates for homeless individuals in Maine. Because of the critical role they play, SLCF has supported Preble Street for nearly two decades. The Foundation made its first grant to Preble Street in 2005 and since then SLCF has supported Preble Street consistently with responsive grants as well as significant support through Foundation Initiated Grants. Since 2009, SLCF has awarded three FIGs to Preble Street totaling $650,000. Over the years, grants have supported Preble Street’s emergency shelter programs, teen shelter, housing first programs, and food program. Preble Street’s most recent SLCF grant of $50,000 was directed to their current major initiative—the Preble Street Food Security Hub.

Anti-hunger work has been part of Preble Street’s operations for nearly 50 years. Preble Street food programs have operated at 252 Oxford Street in Portland since 1993, and in November 2021, the operations relocated to a new building at 75 Darling Avenue in South Portland. The new Preble Street Food Security Hub is a 30,000 square foot mixed-use office building with a small cafeteria kitchen, but planned renovations and construction will revolutionize the organization’s ability to prepare meals, process and freeze food to eliminate waste, strengthen relationships with local farmers and fisherman, and work with other nonprofits to end hunger in Maine.

The fall meeting of the Maine Food Funders Group met at the Food Security Hub for a “before renovations” tour of the facility. Even without the expanded capabilities, the food program prepares as many as 2,000 meals each day distributing to city shelters and to unsheltered individuals throughout Portland, South Portland, and Westbrook. Meals also feed youth at afterschool programs at Boys & Girls Club of Southern Maine, families sheltering at hotels in Cumberland and York County through federal programs like FEMA and General Assistance, and patients recuperating at Congress Street Health Center.

When construction on the Food Security Hub is complete, Preble Street’s new commercial kitchens will allow them to increase meal production from 2,000 meals per day to 7,500 per day. New food processing equipment will increase efficiency and add as many as 2,500 daily meals for distribution so that when the kitchens and processing lab are at full capacity, Preble Street will prepare and distribute approximately 10,000 total meals each day. Expanded food processing at the hub dramatically decreases food waste which is important to both the mission and the bottom line. Preble Street has found that it is both more nutritious and more cost effective to work closely with local farmers and fishermen and produce many of the ingredients used in meals (nut butters, jams, sauces). Preble Street projects the processing lab will preserve approximately 180,000 pounds of product in its first 18 months and up to 5,000 pounds of local produce every day when fully realized. Seventy-five percent of the products preserved at the Food Security Hub will be Maine-grown. Along with processing food and cooking and distributing meals, the Food Security Hub has space dedicated to partner nonprofits. SLCF grantees such as Good Shepherd Food Bank, Cumberland County Food Security Council, and Maine Immigrants' Rights Coalition will share work and convening space at the hub, making it easier to exchange ideas and find efficiencies in services.

Preble Street has raised $9 million toward a $12 million goal for the Food Security Hub. Federal and state funds came from a Congressional Discretionary Spending grant, Cumberland County funds, and the 2023 State of Maine budget among others. Leadership gifts from John T. Gorman Foundation, Hannaford Charitable Foundation, and Good Shepherd Food Bank contribute to more than $3 million in private funds raised to date. They continue their fundraising effort as they plan for this dramatic expansion of services.


Good Shepherd Food Bank’s Community-Driven Strategies (CDS) approach uses collaborative strategies to identify the unique needs of a specific community to close that community’s meal gap and eliminate hunger. In July 2022, the board approved a $200,000 grant to launch a CDS initiative in Biddeford. Since November 2022, GSFB has met monthly in-person with representatives from community groups and agencies including Youth Full Maine, Biddeford’s community garden network, UNE Nutrition Program, Southern Maine Agency on Aging, York County Community Action, Biddeford schools, Biddeford Police Department, and SNAP Education, among others. Approximately 25 people attended each meeting, and GSFB noted that this is a very strong turnout for a CDS effort. The group identified the key programs and barriers to food access, completed a Community Factor Analyses to assess need, and set customized objectives for closing the meal gap in Biddeford. Input from community members who live with food insecurity is a key component of the CDS process. When GSFB found Biddeford residents were hesitant to participate in group discussions, they asked UNE students to survey 30 clients on-site at Youth Full Maine and Biddeford Food Pantry asking questions about how best to coordinate efforts to avoid a confusing maze of services and improve access to meals and food.

GSFB and CDS Biddeford partners used the information and data gathered since November 2022 to create a Request for Proposals that address a range of identified needs including enhanced communication and collaboration between food programs, expanded food pantry hours, strategies to recruit new volunteers, and creating and hosting satellite distributions in underserved neighborhoods.

At their June 22 meeting, GSFB and the CDS partners heard from two organizations responding to the RFP, Youth Full Maine and Biddeford Food Pantry. Youth Full Maine hopes to hire an additional part-time staff person to focus on school food pantries and help meet the deep need for families with school-aged children. They also hope to distribute food from their mobile food pantry at a new site in Biddeford. Youth Full Maine’s executive director, Katie Brown, is in conversation with a property owner who plans to create a food truck destination on his vacant lot near downtown Biddeford, and Youth Full Maine sees the lot as an opportunity for a pop-up distribution site when not in use by commercial vendors. Biddeford Food Pantry hopes to increase their hours to serve more people and add evening hours for people who cannot come during the workday. The two organizations plan to coordinate hours and efforts to maximize the benefit to people in need. The deadline for requests for CDS implementation funds is August 1 with a project start date of September 1.

In addition to specific programs and projects, the CDS process over the last 8 months has identified encouraging possibilities for future efforts. Biddeford has been without an administrator of federal TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) funds since 2021 when Stone Soup food programs closed. Through the CDS discussions, Biddeford Food Pantry has gained a better understanding of the benefits of TANF to clients and the details of how that benefit is implemented. GSFB is encouraged that with the proper support, the pantry could restore that resource to Biddeford. Also, seeing the benefit of the CDS meetings, participating community groups would like to continue meeting and create a more formal network. Since 2011, Cumberland County has had a coordinating body, the Cumberland County Food Security Council (CCFSC), but York County has never had this kind of connection. Southern Maine Health has offered to take the lead in the transition from CDS to a county-wide network like CCFSC. At the midpoint of the CDS initiative, GSFB will continue to support CDS partners as they take the lead in closing the meal gap in Biddeford.


Safe Space Radio was founded in 2008 with the mission to inspire courageous conversations that would break through the stigma around mental health. The Sam L. Cohen Foundation was an early supporter of Safe Space Radio’s work, awarding the organization their first-ever grant in 2013. What began as a weekly, live show on Portland’s WMPG radio, grew to broadcasting nationally on NPR stations in 2016, and became a podcast with more than 300 episodes. Safe Space Radio has received numerous national awards for mental health, stigma reduction, social justice, and radio production. This June, Safe Space Radio will wind down 15 years of work with the transfer of all 305 episodes to Harvard Medical School as part of the school’s permanent collection that will be available to the public.

Safe Space Radio began when its founder, Portland psychiatrist Anne Hallward, took a radio broadcasting class at WMPG. She wanted to create a public health intervention to reduce the isolation, shame and stigma surrounding mental health issues, and saw radio’s potential to foster conversations about difficult topics without her guests, or her listeners feeling subjected to visual scrutiny. The first grant from the Cohen Foundation came at a crucial time for Safe Space Radio. The funds helped them hire a producer which allowed them to move from a weekly live radio show to a produced and edited weekly broadcast with the tagline: “The show about the things we would struggle with less if we could talk about them more.” Another financial boost came when a woman from Maryland saw Dr. Hallward give a Ted Talk titled “How Telling Silenced Stories Can Change the World.” Inspired by the talk, she offered her husband’s legal assistance with obtaining 501(c)3 status and made a $25,000 donation to Safe Space Radio. Along with individual interviews, Safe Space Radio experimented with long-form specials: Out-Takes, on suicide prevention among LGBTQ teens, and Still Here, on caregiving and dementia. Both aired nationally in 2016.

 A second SLCF grant helped launch a four-part miniseries, “Can We Talk,” with shows about subjects that are hard to talk about, that impact our health and the health of our communities. They include shows on Apologies, Asking for Help, Loneliness, and Talking to White Kids about Race and Racism- their most listened to show ever. More than 200 NPR stations in 32 states aired the programs during national Mental Health Awareness month in May 2019. Safe Space Radio also created a second miniseries for national broadcast in 2020 and 2021. Their Mental Health Outreach Project reaches listeners through QR codes on table tents in 67 public libraries in Maine, as well as doctors’ waiting rooms and clinics. The QR codes are located where someone may be sitting alone, and struggling to cope with something that is hard to talk about: (supporting someone with an eating disorder or the emotional toll of seeking asylum) so they can listen to someone sharing a similar story. Medical schools around the country are now using episodes in their curriculum to foster empathy and reduce stigma around mental health, and Safe Space Radio recently published an article about this approach in the journal Academic Psychiatry

 Harvard Medical School will keep Safe Space Radio’s archive in perpetuity. For future generations of medical professionals and the general public, the recorded stories can serve not only as a resource about mental health and stigma but also as a historical document of how mental health was viewed in the years Safe Space Radio was in production. The voices of 418 guests, who dared to share their struggles for the sake of helping others, will be a resource for hundreds of years to come.


A statewide nonprofit based in Portland, Maine Humanities Council’s programs bring Mainers together around books and discussions that explore issues crucial to a community or region. Every summer, MHC’s Read ME program partners with the Maine State Library to get all Maine adults reading two books recommended by a well-known Maine author. The annual Readers Retreat is a deep dive for any reader of any background to come together around a book selected by vote on a statewide ballot. Along with books and poetry, MHC brings Mainers together around big ideas through their Big Question events where scholars and experts tease out answers to questions like: “What if we go on this way?” or “Maine At 200: How Should Life Be?”. While MHC has offered traditional presentations by scholars and experts, now MHC is focused on listening to a community and co-creating programs that use books, poems, or films as the starting point of a community-driven discussion. MHC’s Discussion Project uses this strategy, and the Cohen Foundation made a $15,000 grant to support this program in Cumberland County.

After a pilot at Portland Adult Education, Seeds of Hope in Biddeford, Caring Unlimited in Sanford, and the Southern Maine Women’s Reentry Center (SMWRC) in Windham, MHC brought the Discussion Project to a wide range of community groups.  Students at Southern Maine Community college, Portland and Deering High Schools, community groups that met at the Abyssinian Meeting House and public libraries discussed books like Octavia Butler’s “Wild Seed”, the Telling Room’s anthology “A New Land”, and the collection “Wait: Poems from the Pandemic.” As the programs unfolded, MHC saw potential for a deeper impact at SMWRC.  Pre-pandemic, MHC had run book discussion groups onsite but when Covid kept MHC staff from entering the facility, they decided to train women at SMWRC to facilitate the discussions themselves. Three of the trainees proved to be such skilled facilitators, that MHC enlisted them to facilitate Discussion Project programs at public libraries in Windham, Naples, and Casco. The discussions centered on Portland-based author Phuc Tran’s memoir “Sigh Gone” and Meredith Hall’s “Beneficence” both of which were part of the MHC’s statewide Read ME program. After the success of the Discussion Project at these libraries, MHC asked one of the facilitators from SMWRC to facilitate a book group made up of other MHC facilitators. This facilitators’ book group reads and evaluates books MHC is considering for other programs across the state, so the discussion leader plays a critical role for MHC. Also, after working together on the Discussion Project, two of the SMWRC facilitators have been released from the facility and co-founded the organization, Reentry Sisters, which supports formerly incarcerated women. Among other supports, Reentry Sisters offers facilitated book discussions featuring books suggested by MHC.

In 2023, MHC continues to examine the role books and community-discussion can inspire both individual and community change. At MHC’s Big Question event in mid-February, Cuba Jackson (Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition) shared his perspective about the importance of fostering “a feeling that the world is bigger than you knew and has a place for you where you can do good.”


Window Dressers mobilizes volunteers throughout Maine and New England to build window inserts that conserve energy and save money on heating oil. Their small team is made up of an executive director, a program manager for Maine, and a program manager for New Hampshire and Vermont. WindowDressers coordinates with churches and community groups to organize “community builds” where volunteers build insulated window inserts that are installed into existing window frames. The inserts are free for those who cannot afford to pay, and those who pay full price help subsidize the inserts for low-income homes. WindowDressers all-volunteer production model keeps costs low, and each community build commits to giving 30% of their production to low-income homes. WindowDressers projects that each insert saves approximately 10.5 gallons of heating oil each year, which translates into significant savings for some of Maine’s older housing stock with many drafty windows. The program is a standout highlighted in the Governor’s Climate Plan, “Maine Won’t Wait,” for its efficient use of volunteers and resources to conserve energy in Maine homes.

The lead-up to a community build involves intense volunteer training where WindowDressers’ staff teach volunteers to measure windows onsite and use machines in local workshops to assemble the inserts. Volunteers go into recipients home and use a measuring tool with software that sends measurements directly to the computerized saw in WindowDressers’ workshop in Searsport. The saw is designed to minimize waste and keep materials’ costs down. When materials are cut and ready, volunteers retrieve them for assembly at the community build.   A single community build usually takes place over one or two weeks, and volunteers can build hundreds of inserts during that time. The builds take place in a range of locations including church basements, school multipurpose rooms, vacant retail space, and even boat houses. One build in York County was a collaboration between the towns of York and Wells and produced 345 inserts for 33 households in Alfred, Biddeford, Old Orchard Beach, and Saco.  Builds in Portland, Brunswick, and Cumberland generated more than 600 inserts for 119 households in Cumberland County. Recipients install the inserts themselves, and WindowDressers sends volunteers or staff to help in the rare instance that it’s needed. WindowDressers staff provides resources for outreach and recruiting recipients, and in York County, towns work with SLCF grantees including York County Community Action Program, Southern Maine Agency on Aging Meals on Wheels, and York County Habitat for Humanity.

Since 2019, the Foundation has made four grants of $7,500 each to WindowDressers. The grants have come from the Foundation’s funds designated annually to support emergency heating assistance and weatherization programs in southern Maine. WindowDressers’ staff is working with Governor’s Energy Office and Efficiency Maine to provide rebates for window inserts and make the program more accessible to more low-income households.


The Ecology School (TES) has been through major changes since the Sam L. Cohen Foundation first supported their school programs in 2005. The organization has grown from a small school outreach program and summer camp at Ferry Beach to a large multi-pronged effort to teach students, teachers, and families about connections between the environment, science, food, and themselves. In 2017 The Ecology School purchased River Bend Farm, a 105-acre farm on the Saco River, where they built a 144-bed dormitory for residential educational programs, a large education center and dining commons, and cultivated more than ten acres of land dedicated to growing food. The new facility opened in 2020 and allows TES to extend their curriculum to include sustainable agriculture and healthy food and creates a new source of local produce for food pantries in York County. At River Bend Farm, The Ecology School expands on the program SLCF has supported in Biddeford and Saco Schools. The new school experience is a 2-hour sustainable farming lesson, which includes planting, watering, tilling, and harvesting produce on the farm. All TES’s programs, including school programs, have a family-style meal with all produce coming directly from the farm. In 2022, more than 600 students from Biddeford and Saco school systems will visit River Bend Farm to learn more about their role in the food system. The Dining Commons has a commercial kitchen and both the kitchen and the farm have professional staff. The farm staff design the planting schedule around TES’s education programs so the meals served with education programs are balanced and seasonal. TES staff grows produce including squash, tomatoes, beans, carrots, herbs, and TES has an apple orchard onsite as well. TES’s farming operation has been so successful that TES has been able to donate excess food to pantries in York County. Last year, TES donated approximately 5,000 pounds of produce to Good Shepherd Food Bank partner pantries in the area, including the Biddeford Food Pantry and the York County Shelters Food Pantry in Alfred. Even with this summer’s drought TES has already surpassed last year’s 5,000 pound donations. TES is working with Good Shepherd Food Bank to determine the best role for their organization to play in battling food insecurity in the area. TES is surveying food programs in the area, learning what produce is most useful, and creating a 2023 planting plan to meet the needs of both their participants and local pantries. Future programs might draw on their professional cooking staff to lead cooking classes or working with University of New England. The University is considering adding a major in sustainable agriculture. While The Ecology School’s educational programs are at the heart of their mission, the produce operation of the farm is proving to be a great asset for both practical aspects of feeding students in the new dining commons and sharing with the broader community through Good Shepherd’s food pantry partners. The Fall 2021 $20,000 grant to support both TES’s work with Biddeford and Saco schools and their expanded work in food insecurity is allowing TES to extend the benefits of their new location at River Bend Farm to a broader community.


The Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine saw untapped potential in its collection of artifacts related to the Holocaust and other civil rights issues. Historically, these artifacts had been stored away, taken out on occasion for specific exhibits or if a school requests viewing them as part of their experience at the Michael Klahr Center. In 2021, the Sam L. Cohen Foundation awarded a $20,000 grant to HHRC to organize and document these artifacts so that they could be shared more broadly. As HHRC embarked on this project, their staff realized they had underestimated both the scope of work and the potential for their collection to tell powerful, personal stories about the Holocaust.  

Their first step was creating an inventory of 37 years of artifacts housed in boxes without a system or a strong understanding of how most of the artifacts came into HHRC’s collection. Artifacts, documents, letters, etc. were removed from boxes and spread out on tables so staff could determine how much or how little information they had about an item, what condition it was in, and whether an item had any educational value or use to HHRC’s mission. Staff were surprised to discover hundreds of photographs, boxes of historical period pamphlets, and several items in German that needed to be translated. HHRC staff catalogued and categorized more than 200 entries into the archives.

Through the inventory and cataloguing process, HHRC enlisted outside expertise from the Maine State Archives and Maine State Museum, and two interns from Bowdoin College spent hundreds of hours on the project. A photographer who specializes in microphotography is helping document and digitize the collection so it can be made accessible online and through a shared collections management software called PastPerfect. This collections management software is used by many museums in Maine and nationally, and allows users to share information and collections. As staff has identified where the artifacts came from, they have been able properly thank families for their contributions to the collection.

Already many students and teachers have used items from the archives during visits to the Michael Klahr Center in Augusta. HHRC’s education coordinator, Erica Nadelhaft, is a Holocaust scholar, and she identified specific pieces that could be used as part of HHRC educational programs such as a can that once held Zyklon B, arm bands from the ghettos and the camps, prisoner identification cards, and other pieces that humanize the history of the Holocaust. She also identified artifacts that could be used in HHRC’s Civil Rights program – such as a Ku Klux Klan robe and related pamphlets and ephemera.

Erica also selected artifacts that could safely travel into schools for HHRC’s classroom lessons or put on short-term display at the Center for teachers participating in professional development programs. For example, when teachers and administrators from the Maine Department of Education met at the Center following the completion of HHRC’s collaboration on the Department of Education Holocaust and Genocide MOOSE modules (Maine Online Opportunities for Sustained Education), HHRC created a special display of items from the archives that would inspire classroom curriculum. Senior college groups have also had a chance to view them. Since January of this year, more than 60 teachers and staff and more than 450 students, from Lincoln, Aroostook, Somerset, York, Sagadahoc, Waldo, Kennebec, and Oxford counties have seen and talked about these objects.

HHRC continues to explore ways to expand the use of the archives and share the artifacts with more people in Maine and nationally. HHRC’s educators are building more curriculum around the archives, and they recently received a $5,000 grant to purchase better display cases that will allow them to exhibit items more frequently and for longer periods of time. HHRC’s current exhibit, Reflections on Genocide features items from the archives. Also, this fall HHRC will incorporate items from the archives into their exhibit of the Violins of Hope. This exhibit is part of a collaboration with the Portland Symphony Orchestra and supported in part by a SLCF grant to the PSO.

Additionally, Erica was invited to be the final speaker in the Bangor Public Library's Americans and the Holocaust exhibit and lecture series. During her presentation, Erica described her research (that began in the HHRC archives) tracing three branches of a family as they desperately tried to emigrate to the United States, like so many other German Jews in the late 1930s, navigating an American bureaucracy that worked not with but against them. Despite wealth and connections, their story is filled with pleas for help, closing doors, imprisonments, escapes, and even death. Erica’s presentation illustrates the power of this type of project, as she connects the dots between the unmarked contents of a box in HHRC’s storage to the personal, lived experience of three families. Watch the presentation here.


Maine Boys to Men’s most recent SLCF grant was awarded just a few weeks ago ($15,000), but the organization has been in the news and hard at work since they submitted their Spring 2022 application. Maine Boys to Men works to combat male violence, and their RSVP program (Reducing Sexism and Violence Program) is the centerpiece of their work in schools. Maine Boys to Men saw a sharp uptick in requests for services as schools reopened. Teachers saw dramatic increases in aggressive and violent behavior after months of isolation and disruptions during the pandemic. Schools wanted immediate help with specific situations and sought out professional development for teachers to find new strategies for quelling students’ intense frustrations exacerbated by the pandemic. Schools were also looking to Maine Boys to Men to link their work to discussions of school shootings and finding new language to talk about extreme violence. Considering the perpetrators of these acts are often white, young, and male, both local schools and national organizations looked to Maine Boys to Men for leadership.

Reporting on the horrific school shooting in Uvalde, Texas NBC News interviewed Maine Boys to Men for a story about organizations working in violence prevention. The article spotlights work by Maine Boys to Men along with Denver’s Project PAVE and BAM (Becoming a Man) in Chicago. The NBC article links to a 2019 study of Maine Boys to Men programs published by researchers at Rutgers University and University of New Hampshire. Maine Boys to Men will continue this work, and they are co-responders to a request for proposals from the Office of Violence Against Women to support a University of Nebraska research study of the long-term impact of Maine Boys to Men programs.

As Maine Boys to Men grows more visible nationally, they have also expanded their reach within Maine. The organization has long hoped to bring its training programs to difficult-to-reach parts of the state. With a $15,000 SLCF grant in 2020, Maine Boys to Men designed a “train the trainer” program where their training programs create a ripple effect in a community. This approach was in play this spring, when Maine Boys to Men received a special grant to work with domestic and sexualized violence advocates at the Wabanaki Resource Centers in four tribal communities. Community members, and representatives of tribal courts and schools participated in training programs. The programs were a partnership between Maine Boys to Men and the Wabanaki Women’s Coalition. This spring, they worked with the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot and in the fall, they will take the Train the Trainer approach to the MicMac Women’s Coalitions Center. Maine Boys to Men hopes that this partnership can lead to a dedicated staff person to coordinate on-going partnerships with the Wabanaki Women’s Coalition and the communities they serve.

The first half of this five minute video features Maine Boys to Men staff describing their work and its impact. The Maine Masonic Foundation has supported them for many years and produced this video to help them tell their story.