NEW PORTLAND — The Western Mountains Baptist Church has announced that it is now the headquarters for a not-so-new program called “Bridging the Gap.” Once a month, Bridging the Gap volunteers provide, prepare, package and deliver hot meals to community members who are elderly or homebound. The new organizers, Jeff Smith and Cathy Haines, are from Salem Township and are members of the Western Mountains Baptist Church.

The idea for an elderly food program was created by then-college student, Tracy Bessey of Kingfield, as a community project for a sociology class. At that time, in 2007, she and her husband, Tom Bessey, cooked and prepared meals in their own home for residents of the Kingfield Elderly Housing. Bessey and her daughter would deliver 20 meals to the complex each month.

The Bessey family loved to cook and were so passionate about the project that they bought and prepared most of the food themselves until they found new volunteers to take over the program.

Sue Jones, leader of the Kingfield Girl Scouts, adopted the program from the Bessey family in 2008. With input and suggestions from the Girl Scouts, the name of the elderly food program was changed to Bridging the Gap, viewing the program as a way to bridge the gap between youth and older citizens. The Girl Scouts were instrumental in getting the community involved by requesting donations of food and paper products from local businesses and individuals.

Bridging the Gap’s next home was with Pastor Connie Maginnis and other members of the Kingfield United Methodist Church. Bruce Taylor, Kingfield, recalls how Maginnis asked him to help out with one of the meals and he has been helping ever since. That request was made eight years ago. Maginnis worked with local businesses and had the program running smoothly.

A picnic in the park and a summer barbecue held at the elderly housing complex were added to the program to encourage fellowship among the recipients while having a meal together.


Last summer, while Maginnis was away on vacation, Yvonne Woodcock, member of the Kingfield United Methodist Church, sent out a plea on Facebook for help with the upcoming meal. Western Mountains Baptist Church volunteers stepped up and for the next several months, members of both churches worked to provide meals to the elderly and homebound in Kingfield.

After Maginnis’s unexpected death in September 2017, Pastor Tom DuBois agreed Bridging the Gap would be a good fit along with the other outreach services provided by the congregation at the Western Mountains Baptist Church, New Portland. The elderly food program will continue its grass roots beginnings while maintaining the working relationship with members of the Kingfield United Methodist Church.

Smith and Haines volunteered to spearhead the program out of the kitchen at the Western Mountains Baptist Church. Smith and Taylor are now the head chefs. Haines collaborates with the local businesses and takes meal selections from recipients. Each month folks have a choice of two meals that include dessert, prepared by Debbie, Priscilla and Dori Hinkley, Kingfield.

Deliveries are made by a team of drivers, including Jim Secotte and his helper, Elijah Coffren, 10, Kingfield, Doris Foley, Salem Township, and Barbara Nickerson, Kingfield. Currently 45 meals are prepared and delivered. Smith and Haines look forward to serving more people as word spreads about the free meals for the elderly.

Bridging the Gap’s success has not only come about by the volunteers willing to coordinate, cook and deliver the meals, but in large part by the ongoing donations of food and money from many individuals and businesses in the Kingfield community. Over the years, many community members have been involved by making desserts or side dishes and delivering meals.

Because of new funding from the Western Mountains Baptist Church, Bridging the Gap meals have now been expanded to include residents living in New Portland and Salem Township.

There are no income guidelines and no church affiliation is needed to receive a free homecooked lunch. The meals are provided on the last Saturday of each month. The upcoming meal choices for February are turkey and vegetable pot pie or meatloaf with mashed potato and peas.

For more information, call Cathy at 207-678-2442 or the Western Mountains Baptist Church at 207-265-2557.

The Bridging the Gap program is continuing in the Kingfield area. In front frpm left are Jeff Smith, Debbie Hinkley, Dori Hinkley and Elijah Coffren; back, Bruce Taylor, Priscilla Hinkley, Cathy Haines, Doris Foley and Jim Secotte; missing from photo, Barbara Nickerson. (Photo by Crystal Fitch)

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