News Feature

Deer Isle
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, February 14, 2019
‘Hands of Hope’ aims to meet community needs

by Monique Labbe

What started out with three women doing their best to meet the basic needs of area children and their families has become a larger organization set on offering support to people across the Island and Peninsula communities.

Hands of Hope was founded two years ago by Jenn Larrabee, Ashley Pesek and Jessica Valdez, who realized there was a need in the communities to address needs stemming from something as simple as a pair of cleats to offering support for individuals whose families may be struggling with addiction or even imprisonment.

“We had been able to share and meet most needs, but suddenly the problem became larger than the three of us could manage. With our own resources maxed out, we began to discuss a larger plan,” said Valdez. “One that would meet the needs of these children, and their families, in a more comprehensive way. From these meetings came the idea for Hands of Hope.”

The children in the area are a focal point for all three founders, and are at the forefront of the work the group has done and intends to do moving forward.

“Children in our community are all of our responsibility,” said Valdez. “Seeing families and children going without their needs met just isn’t an option, but it happens all the time, even when families and children are begging for help. If we don’t step in to meet these needs, no one will.”

“I heard adolescents saying something to the effect of ‘I’m from Sedgwick.’ The implication being, I can’t amount to anything or go anywhere because I am from a small town, or that people didn’t expect them to do anything because [of that]. Our children are a very rich resource for the future of the Peninsula and with an isolated community, where not everyone has familial resources to pull from, we all can make a difference in how these youth see their potential,” added Pesek.

Pesek noted that in larger communities, organizations like the YMCA provide after school childcare for younger children, and programs geared toward older youth while their parents are at work. In more remote areas like the Island and Peninsula communities, it can be difficult to even find daycare for children once the final school bell rings.

“That is not to say there are not interested community members willing to help in any way possible,” she said.

Bringing those willing community members together is something the organization is trying to accomplish. The group has started reaching out to area organizations to provide further, more formal supports, and welcome the public to their monthly meetings at the Island Men’s Group Association Hall. Those meetings take place at 6 p.m. on the last Tuesday of every month.

“This isn’t a ‘come and talk about the problems meeting.’ It is a ‘roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty’ kind of meeting,” said Valdez. “We have items on our agenda that need to be addressed quickly. There are many ways to get involved from asking for donations, heading or helping with a project, connecting us with resources or brining new ideas on how to help the families and children in our community.”

While the organization aims to help those in need, Larrabee said it is important for people to understand that the work the group does is not charity, but instead a way to make a lasting, long term impact on the people receiving their help.

“This is a hand up, not a hand out,” said Larrabee.

Those looking to receive support from the organization can visit the Facebook page Hands of Hope, or by call 295-3942. To become involved with Hands of Hope, contact the group through its Facebook page, or email Valdez at japricot.valdez@gmail.com.