The Goodwill Fellowship of the First Universalist Church of West Paris meet at Beverly Stevens’ home March 27. Rose Lincoln

WEST PARIS — Twelve women gather at two tables in Beverly Stevens’ living room. Their three- tiered event begins with a pizza lunch followed by a business meeting. Then they play Pokeno and simultaneously hold a lively gift swap.

The women pay $1 a month to be part of the Goodwill Fellowship of the First Universalist Church of West Paris.

Throughout the year they sell chicken pot pies, hold a dessert pie sale, and on the first weekend in June host an “Everything Rhubarb” event. They donate the money they raise to nearby Arthur Mann Memorial Library and Papa’s Boots, a group from Harrison that provides boots to the needy.  They fund Christmas for Kids at Agnes Gray School and send over Halloween-themed platters. This year it was eyeballs.

But today is about laughing, playing Pokeno and swapping gifts.

As lunch winds down and the business meeting begins, the women recite the “Collect” (pronounced, call-ect) together:


“May we put away all pretense and meet with each other without self-pity and without prejudice, grant that we may realize it is the little things that create differences, that in the big things of life, we are as one, and let us not forget to be kind.”

The 12 assembled are Joan Young of West Paris, Vice President Charlotte Wormell of West Paris, Secretary Marta Clements of South Woodstock, Peggy Turner of South Paris, Maryanne Brown of West Paris, Susan Lyons of Paris, Deb Herrick of West Paris, Treasurer Beverly Stevens of West Paris, Linda Korhonen of West Paris, Doreen Merrill of South Waterford, Peg Perham of West Paris and Arlen Riis of West Paris. Three members were missing on this day: Kathy Bartlett of Bethel, President Sandra Poland of West Bethel and Kate Coffin of Norway.

Reading aloud the previous meeting’s minutes, Clements says, “We are paying out more money than we are taking in by about $10,000.”

Even so, they feel they have enough money and vote to give $1,000 to the church for operating expenses.

Clement reads thank-you notes and remembrances.

Charlot Wormell asks about Cabin Fever Day at the church. They had a good time, Clements said. The group played hand and foot, bridge, cribbage and put a jigsaw puzzle together. Clements said they will likely have it again but without refreshments. “I don’t know, the chowder was awfully good,” Stevens said.


They discuss attending a church service as a group. Not everyone in the Goodwill Fellowship attends church, but some of the group’s fundraisers benefit the church, which was built in 1906.

At one time this group was larger. Because there were so many members, the Goodwill Fellowship became the older ladies’ group and younger women joined Forward Fellowship. They merged into The Goodwill Fellowship as the numbers dwindled.

A 1965 annual report from the Forward Fellowship reports a $100 donation to the church. Catering a wedding, holding a chicken pie supper and a foodless food sale were three of their fundraisers back then. They also read the “Collect” at the start of every meeting.

Talking about low attendance at church these days, someone remarks, “It’s not the only organization that’s having a problem. The Finn Society, the Grange, the Legion Hall, and the Masons are all gone. People work two jobs, or on Saturdays and Sundays, too. It’s not like it used to be. Stores are open all the time now.”

Clements says the fellowship group is small but active.

“We would like to encourage others to join us,” she says. “You don’t have to be a member of the church, but we’d like to have more people join us at church, also.” Clements has been in the fellowship for 60 years.


They talk about holding a fundraiser for the church or the school. One idea is to replace the linoleum floor in the church kitchen. “Doreen would like to paint the kitchen,” someone says.

They discuss the replacement of the stained-glass windows at the church and how much more money they still need.

“It’s only $2,000 now,” Stevens says.

“So generous,” someone says of the donors who have given considerably.

Pokeno time

Peggy Turner of West Paris won the mystery gift, a loaf of cranberry-pumpkin bread made by Charlot Wormell of West Paris at the Goodwill Fellowship monthly meeting March 27. Rose Lincoln

On a shelf in the corner of Stevens’ living room are 13 colorful gift bags. “It looks like Easter over there,” Perham says.


Peggy Turner wins the first gift, a traditional “mystery gift” brought by the previous winner. She delights at the homemade cranberry-pumpkin bread she pulls from the bag.

As at their last meeting, they play Pokeno, a game similar to Bingo. When a row on a card is filled with chips, the player calls, “Pokeno,” then chooses a gift from the pile.

Before they begin, Wormell announces that the deal will go around twice with everyone taking two turns.

The group is chatty until the card game starts, then they barely look up from their cards.

“Are we ready? Ace of hearts. A-C-E hearts, five of spades, ten of diamonds, four of spades …”

The noise and laughter level ebbs and flows, increasing after “Pokeno” is called, decreasing as the game restarts.


“E-I-G-H-T of clubs, Jack of diamonds, seven of diamonds …”

One by one the gifts are chosen. Second- and third-time winners have gifts stacked by their feet, while others have none.

A spring gift theme emerges — ducks, chicks, puffins, and stuffed bunnies are carefully lifted from bags. Paperweights, a homemade raspberry pie, and puzzles.

Referencing the final swap, Perham says, “But you may not keep that until the end. So you better watch out. Pretty rough crowd here.”

Stevens’ cat, Inky, reacts to the chaos. Released from the bedroom, she meanders through a sea of legs then scoots up the stairs.

Doreen Merrill of South Waterford, left, looks over the shoulder of Peg Perham of West Paris who wins a jigsaw puzzle at Pokeno. Beverly Stevens, right, hosted the Goodwill Fellowship of the First Universalist Church ladies’ social group at her home in West Paris on March 27. Rose Lincoln

When Perham lifts a jigsaw puzzle out of a gift bag, someone says, “I’ve done that one before. It’s called ‘patience!'”


Doreen Merrill’s homemade raspberry pie and a large green stuffed bunny were exchanged/stolen several times. Perham wanted the bunny for her great-granddaughter and was victorious in the end.

Every June, Beryl Bonney of West Paris hosted the group at her camp with the help of her caregiver, Doreen Merrill. Bonney had been a member for about 70 years before she passed away, Wormell said. Peg Turner has a barbecue in July and in August, sisters Wormell and Poland will host together at Poland’s house.

Next up is a meeting in Bethel where Kathy Bartlett will be the host. It will no doubt be lively — once the Pokeno starts.



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