AUBURN — Todd Whitcomb and Jolene Girouard discovered their passions years ago, and have found ways to use them to give back to their community.

For Whitcomb, it is sports. For Girouard, it has been local elections.

The pair received “Extra Mile” awards from the city of Auburn earlier this month for their years of volunteerism.

Whitcomb has been a key piece of the Auburn PAL Center, a community center that runs an after school program for neighborhood kids. For more than three years, he has run a free weekly soccer program for youth in the Chestnut Street neighborhood.

According to city staff, he grew the program to record numbers in 2019, prior to the pandemic, with anywhere from 60-90 kids stopping by each session to engage in soccer skills and drills.

Whitcomb, who is also a teacher in the Auburn School District, said he grew up around sports and a family that participated in civic organizations like the Lions Club and Andrews Legion Post.

“We didn’t have a lot of money so we put in sweat equity,” he said. “That afforded opportunities for us.”

Staff members from the Auburn Recreation Department said Whitcomb has been instrumental in securing grant funding and other resources toward programs, including Auburn’s new Futsal courts.

According to a prepared statement about the award, Whitcomb sits on the Soccer Maine board of directors and coaches several teams throughout the state. When the Yarmouth girls team heard about the PAL program, it organized a fundraiser that brought in $1,000, which was used for equipment.

They continued the effort, and secured a $10,000 grant from Dick’s Sporting Goods for the program, which according to staff “will help secure much needed equipment like goals, soccer balls, cleats, socks, mouth guards, sports bras and sport hijab’s.”

He was later able to work with Dick’s Sporting Goods again, this time for a $25,000 grant for the futsal courts.

“To say Todd is an asset to this community and the PAL Soccer program would be an understatement,” said the award statement. “His dedication to the sport of soccer, developing young players and growing the love of the game is clearly demonstrated through his efforts to grow and provide the PAL after school program with an elite level of experience for free.”

Whitcomb said he participated in a PAL (Police Activities League) sports program and Portland Boys Club activities as a kid, and even from a young age wanted to coach sports. He helped start Falmouth Youth Soccer and the Falmouth Fall Classic tournament.

When he joined the Spurwink School, his students did not have sports outlets, so he secured a grant from Fleet Bank and started the first TOPSoccer program in Maine.

“I have always wanted to help the kids who did not have all the things I did,” he said. “To be honest, volunteering gives me balance.”

Jolene Girouard, left, stands with Mayor Jason Levesque while receiving Auburn’s “Extra Mile” award for her volunteerism. Submitted photo

JOLENE GIROUARD

Jolene Girouard worked for the city as a deputy registrar from 1993 to 2007 after retiring from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

But, even after “retiring” from her clerk’s office role, she returned almost every year to assist with elections, and according to City Clerk Sue Clements-Dallaire, she has become one of the most important pieces of Auburn’s election system.

Girouard was surprised by the award, and was even in the dark about why she was invited to sit in on the City Council meeting Nov. 15.

“Jolene knows firsthand what goes into running a smooth election,” Clements-Dallaire said. “She has seen changes in the election process and the implementation of new technology over the years.

“She was here when the State implemented the Statewide Central Voter Registration System in Maine, accessible ballot marking devices, no excuse absentee voting and same-day voter registration, to name a few changes over the decades.”

Clements-Dallaire said that work was crucial over the last two elections, when COVID-19 caused big changes to how elections were handled. The 2020 presidential election was especially fraught.

“With unprecedented numbers of absentee ballot requests, phone calls, and voter registrations we were getting, we had to bring in additional temporary office staff to keep up with the excessive hours and workload,” she said. “Jolene assisted with training them and sharing her knowledge and expertise.”

Girouard said she never thought she would still be involved with Auburn elections after so many years, but she is happy to still be helping. She likes working alongside the election staff and meeting voters. Then, there is the air of excitement on Election Day.

“Elections can be complicated and challenging,” Clements-Dallaire said. “It takes knowledge, experience, attention to detail and strong commitment to the process. Jolene possesses all those qualities. Her dedication and commitment to Auburn’s elections are undeniable.”


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