Valley Voices: Spring cleaning

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Almost 13 years ago, in November of 1997, the River Valley Healthy Communities Coalition was launched at a news gathering and reception downstairs at the Mexico Town Hall. Patty Duguay was named executive director.

For most all of the years since, RVHCC has held monthly “Community Networking Meetings.” Before being embroiled in some other endeavors, yours truly attended those gatherings fairly regularly. You might see Deb Gorham — genie of the walking trail movement — or Rosie Bradley — once of the River Valley Growth Council. Or representatives of SeniorsPlus, or one or both Lovejoys (Dick served as board chair then; Jane Bubar does now).

Involvement in other efforts kept me away for a very long time, till last Tuesday when the networking session was held at the Rumford library. We were a small group that day, but the session was lively and positive.

“Living Gluten-Free” was the subject of last week’s program presented by Suzanne Dunham, who is on the staff of Rape Education and Crisis Hotline based in South Paris. She is also an herbalist. It’s all about gluten intolerance and its role in celiac disease and a number of other conditions: Autistic children are often gluten intolerant. Suzanne has presented seminars, cooking classes, and workshops from Bangor to Bethel. You can reach her at 207-665-2967.

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In addition, Suzanne gave us a little advice: “Spring! Time to clean house. …” Thankfully, the house in question is not filled with picture glass yellowed by winter wood fires, sump pump residue in the basement, and salty sand on the back porch. This house is you.

I beat feet to Red Hill Foods a few days later, bearing Suzanne’s spring cleaning list.

Getting reacquainted with RVHCC and its programs at last week’s networking session was heartening. While the non-profit has taken some financial hits — it’s everywhere — Patty and her staff keep on promoting Ways to Wellness and providing a forum for other community agencies. Before last week’s meeting ended we’d heard from Maggie Cook about Western Maine Community Action’s multiple services in the region and from Linda Walbridge the Main Street small business initiative starting up in Rumford and Mexico. RVHCC staffer Sandy Palmer reported a very encouraging first meeting of parents to prevent — or end — underage drinking. The effort is funded by the state’s Office of Substance Abuse.

The Healthy Communities Coalition’s definition of “healthy” is broad, touching virtually every aspect of life in our community, even the arts and business. The Coalition is helping to win a major grant from the Maine Arts Commission that would “put the arts to work for Rumford” — another Way to Wellness.

Linda Farr Macgregor is a freelance writer; contact her at jmacgregor1@roadrunner.com

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