The District Exchange, a nonprofit organization that donates clothing to those in need, started looking for a new home. During the week of July 12, Director Dave Bean asked the Bethel Board of Selectmen if the exchange could use the vacant Ethel Bisbee Elementary School. It was believed the school was deteriorating, but selectman said they would pay it a visit to see if it was in any condition for use.

After 20 years with the Waste Water Treatment Plant in Bethel, Rick Davis retired. Looking back on his career, he said he played a heavy part in preventing pollution. One main component Davis faced was the grease stuck in the wastewater. He said the best way for the public to handle grease is to wipe it out with a paper-towel; don’t dump it down drains. Davis says, “I’ve been thankful to work for the town of Bethel, and working with a lot of good people.”

Deirdre Cavanagh stands in her new gallery in Bethel in July. Meira Beinstock

Lucky Champ is the dog who not only give hugs, but can open a screen cabin door, cross a five-way intersection, and travel a mile to meet his parents at Grand Lake Stream camping grounds. His mom, Jessie, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce in Bethel, was convinced he only came because he smelled the bacon. His dad, Gabe, said he came for them. Near Orono, students were fawning over him when they went bar hopping. That was Champ’s Greatest Day!

Local artist Deirdre Cavanagh opened her studio in Bethel on Main Street the last week of July. It’s called Cavanagh Ink Studio and she has put her collection of 50 years of work inside. When asked if there’s an answer to some of life’s questions hidden in her sketches, drawings, or poems, she replied, “It’s not that simple. … All of this, and this is how I’ve come to feel about life, nothing is just one thing. When you go back to the root and look for the meaning, that’s where I think all of us who are — if you are a poet, or a writer, or a painter, you want to get to the basic, to the reality of the words … but it all shifts … so sometimes you’ve got it … and then sometimes you go poof! Ha!”

In Bethel in late July, educator John Wight talked with the Bethel Citizen about his family linage and how everyone has carried on the canoeing legacy. He described his earliest memories canoeing to his hubris moments with the canoe to what canoeing has taught him. Wight discussed how he learned his most important lesson with canoeing the hard way, and how it forever stuck with him.



During the week of Aug. 9, the SAD 44 Board of Directors voted in favor of mandating masks due to the rising number of COVID cases in Maine. Board Director Marcy Winslow said everyone’s goal is for children to be in school, and she would like to see another solution so they can continue to stay in school and whether they should continue to mask-up.

On Aug. 9, officials in Bethel, Greenwood, Newry and Woodstock met to discuss four topics weighing upon them as a region. The topics included: expanding broadband, rethinking solid waste, Bethel airport financial support, and housing for the medium income workforce. Regarding broadband, speed testing broadband lines has been done throughout the four towns. All the roads and all the wires in the towns have been checked. Regarding waste, there was a discussion of having two transfer stations. The Bethel selectman asked that each town chip in the cost of operating the Bethel Regional Airport, as all towns benefit from its service. Workforce housing was a heated topic because many people need to work in the region but can’t afford to live here, and the region is seeing more out-of-state buyers purchasing local properties.

Gould Academy in Bethel developed a new strategy for the fall semester, with students coming back during the pandemic. The school predicted that over 90% of the population would be vaccinated before students returned. Knowing that, Head of School Tao Smith said everyone will be required to wear masks indoors only for the first two weeks, until Gould can clear its testing strategies. Those who are

Roxy Kai-Petrovich, who grew up in Bethel and is now a volunteer with Maine People’s Alliance, at the opening of the “Lead with Love” documentary at The Gem Theatre in Bethel. Submitted photo

unvaccinated will have to wear masks indoors for the foreseeable future, and Gould will try as hard as it possibly can to allow for as much normalcy for students and also its vaccinated population for as long as it is prudent.

At the Gem Theatre on Aug. 5, the documentary “Lead With Love,” which follows the stories of three women from Maine whose lives have been affected by opioids, was shown. There are many common themes among the three woman, the main being all three had been through trauma at a young age. Talking with Patrick Babcock at the Foundation House in Portland, he says humans are addicted to distraction. In 2020, Americans spent $500 billion on pharmaceutical drugs. Roxy Kai-Petrovich, originally from Bethel, encourages people never to underestimate the power of one person’s voice. All it takes is one person to speak up because when everyone comes together, “you can’t ignore that,” she says about helping those with opioid addictions.


The old key bank in Bethel on Main Street is now going to be the Gemini Café and Bakery run by two business partners: Anna Sysko and Nicole Pellerin. The two started off working at the iconic Café Decocoa. They’ll be serving customers who want a grab a cup of coffee, people who want to sit down and have a pastry with a friend, people grabbing items for a picnic, or someone who wants their daily bread.


In Bethel, Scott Fraser and his business partner James Kimball were brewing new beers, marking new territory, and telling the story of how Steam Mill Brewing came to be. The Steam Mill was born in the actual Steam Mill section of Bethel, hence the name. “Because I had a pharmacy background, I could help him (Kimball) with water chemistry,” Fraser said. “Water is super important for beer. Super important. The water is huge because it’s the largest competent of the beer.” The brewery is on the Sunday River Road.

On Aug. 17,  the Bethel Board of Selectmen discussed providing swimming lessons for the town. Mia Purcell, the vice president of Economic Development and Impact for Community Concepts, discussed free WiFi spots within the Common and who they were partnering with to make that happen.

On Sept. 7, the issue of Broadband was brought up at the Bethel Board of Selectmen’s meeting. The board and members of the town’s broadband committee agreed upon fiber optic for broadband. According to Broadband Committee Member Jeff Martin, it is the best option because fiber is easily adaptable for progressive technology. The government has granted Bethel $27,000 to help pay for improved broadband. However, if all the towns in the region work together, there could be a more reasonable deal for everyone.

On Sept. 22, Bob Oicke from the age friendly Community Initiative joined the Greenwood Board of Selectmen to discuss the different programs the AGFI was offering in the community, including students volunteering to help senior citizens with safe activities. Oicke thanked Greenwood for its support and for the financial support of $600 that year. He also presented the board with a plaque.


During the week of Sept. 20, the town officials announced the Woodstock First Responder Program, established a decade ago, will be terminated due to lack of local EMT personnel. The program, operated under the Woodstock Fire Department, provided initial medical care in that town before PACE Ambulance could arrive. Termination will be effective Oct. 22.


Before SAD 44 Superintendent Dave Murphy was the superintendent, he was a second grade teacher in Massachusetts. In early October he told the Bethel Citizen he would always read “Danny, the Champion of the World” to his class, by Roald Dahl. Every year, “I would read the book to my kids, I would have them write him (Dahl) a letter,” Murphy said. “And so we would mail them to him. And he would always respond. We would always get a personalized letter back from him that was very short but sounded like a paragraph from out of one of his books. I can remember (the letters) were a short paragraph or two saying something like ‘Dear handsome David and all the wonderful children in your classroom,’ and he went on to saying he was sitting in a caravan writing a story and a cow came and ate the curtain out of his window… and they’re all different, every single one of them is different (the letters). It always seemed he took the time to write a paragraph to the kids. It was quite a connection.”

On Oct. 13, Woodstock Town Manager Vern Maxfield signed a sale of agreement for the Town of Woodstock to purchase Bucks Ledge property from Bayroot LLC for the creation of a community forest. “The contract will allow us time to raise the money now to purchase the property,” says Volunteer Marcel Polak.

The richest known lithium deposit in the world was discovered a few miles northeast of the ski slopes of Sunday River and just north of Newry. Smaller deposits have been known in Maine for decades, but this recent discovery, just north of Plumbago Mountain in Newry, is the first to have a major resource potential. And that potential is staggering: At current market prices, the deposit, thought to contain 11 million tons of ore, is valued at roughly $1.5 billion. Measuring up to 36 feet in length, some of the lithium-bearing crystals are among the largest ever found.



On Oct. 31 in Bethel, Larry Stifler and Mary McFadden held a ribbon cutting event to seal the deal on the loop closing for the Long Mountain trailhead. The trail is 5.5 miles long, with many waterfalls, following a brook. ““I had a broken thumb and I ended up rock climbing to get up there and I found it and was like this is great, the view, I was like wow, this is great destination for a trail. So that’s kinda how it began, by

The ribbon cutting at Long Mountain Meira Bienstock

finding the destination. This is worth it. I think people would hike to this spot and really feel like okay, it was worth getting here. From there, then the work backward begins,” said trail designer Bruce Barrett.

Glenn Hall’s parents and grandparents were born and raised in Maine; his grandparents specific to Andover. As he prepared to release his new debut album on Nov. 12, he talked with the Bethel Citizen about one of his songs, called, “Her Finger Needs a Ring,” which draws heavily on his grandfather’s life where he worked in the lumber camp in the winter.

The fifth annual Thanksgiving Day Race took place on Thursday, Nov. 25, with runners and walkers weaving along the 5K route through Bethel. The race started at the Gem Theatre. UMass-Amherst student and part-time Bethel-resident Loeden Rodrigues won the race in 2017, 2018, and remotely in 2020. “We call it a race, but it’s mostly about getting out of the house before you spend the rest of the day cooking and eating … to try and get some fresh air in there,” said volunteer Cassie Mason.

For the past 42 years, Nina Wheeler and her husband have been giving Christmas to families in the SAD 44 area who are in need, through their nonprofit called Christmas for Families. Wheeler talked with the Bethel Citizen about the types of gifts donated, emphasizing they are gifts for the family, not just the child. When people ask Wheeler if she’s going to retire after four decades of doing nonprofit work, she said she always responds: “as long as there is a need, we will do it.”



On Nov. 29, the SAD 44 Board of Directors met to discuss the continued use of  masks in schools. Superintendent Dave Murphy said there were 25 cases of COVID in the district. Even so, “The outstanding news is that we’ve been able to maintain in-school learning and we have not been forced to go remote at all,” explained Murphy. “I’m not sure how many people understand just how much work the administrators and the nurses spend on close contact identification, but it’s a very important aspect of everything related to COVID.”

In Greenwood and Bethel, Mt. Abram Ski Area & Bike Park and the Telstar school district launched a program forstudents to ski for free on Thursdays and Fridays and have the potential opportunity for part-time jobs. The Community Student Pass SAD 44 Program is for skiers

Willow Octera, left, and Deirdre Fournier happily sort through donated items to help those in need. Submitted

aged 6-15; the second group, Bethel Recreation, including free rentals and free passes for chaperones; and the third group, the Work Program, is for ages 16-18, which includes, in addition to the free ski pass, the opportunity to work part-time.

The Valentine’s Day Project, a four-person group that distributes clothing to homeless shelters across Maine on Valentines Day, is expanding its territory to help more people in need. The group donates backpacks to veterans, and stuffed drawbags to others in need. Last year, the four managed to go to homeless shelters in Rumford, Norway, Auburn, Lewiston, Portland, and then the Maine Veterans Alliance in Portland. The group was founded by Deirdre Fournier and Willow Octera. “So what’s cool about the backpacks is literally we see a homeless person on the street, we’ll just stop and ask them if they would like a Valentine’s backpack,” Octera said. “And then we just give them a backpack. And it has a bunch of essentials that they’ll need to just kind of help them out through the cold winter months, which is, you know, it’s pretty cool. Making that connection with the people.”


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