Dr. Steven Quackenbush, center, hands the check to Kristen Wroble, outside W. G. Mallett School on Wednesday, Aug. 23. Also pictured, from left to right, Robin Bragg, Katie Hallman, Meaghan Swan, Debra Miller and Chris Cox. Brian Ponce/Franklin Journal

FARMINGTON — The RSU 9 Food Pantry received a $10,000 donation from University of Maine Farmington Associate Provost and Dean of Arts & Science Dr. Steven Quackenbush on Wednesday, Aug. 23, for the pantry’s backpack program. Along with the donation, the pantry will be renaming the backpack program “Anita’s Hope” in honor of Quackenbush’s late mother, Anita Louise Spencer.

“I am beyond grateful for Dr. Quackenbush’s very generous donation,” Kristen Wroble, coordinator of the RSU 9 Food Pantry, said. “We are so fortunate that he chose to partner with the Tyngtown Club, and that they were kind enough to think of us. 100% of this money will be used to purchase weekend ‘backpack’ food for RSU 9 children.”

Wroble added that, without the donation, the backpack program was more than likely to be cut from the upcoming school year.

“Now we can not only continue to offer this program, but also continue to expand our reach, as we know there are many additional students who would benefit from extra weekend food,” she added. “We are also excited to announce that we are going to rename the RSU 9 Food Pantry backpack program to ‘Anita’s Hope’ in honor of Dr. Quackenbush’s mother.  We feel certain she would be proud.”

Spencer passed in November of last year at her home in Wilton. Before her passing, she was an active member of the community. Using her background as a clinical psychologist, Spencer formed a grief group when she arrived in Wilton in 2017.

She was also a member of the Tyngtown Club in Wilton. A fraternal organization for women, Tyngtown has been active in the community for over 120 years and Spencer was campaigning for the position of club president before her untimely passing.


According to Tyngtown member Robin Bragg, Spencer had a passion for helping others and food insecurity, especially with children, was among the many issues she had brought to Tyngtown during their meetings.

Those conversation on how the organization could tackle the problem had just barely started before Spencer’s passing. However, the other members wanted to continue with the cause to honor her memory, and they looked at the backpack program at the RSU 9 Food Pantry as a start.

“We formed the committee and started looking into different programs,” Bragg told the Franklin Journal. “It was about a year of work to look at all the different programs, figure out what we could do, what we couldn’t do, and realize that the best fit for us was the backpack program.”

According to Bragg, Tyngtown will be taking over the backpack program for Kristen Wroble, who took charge of the RSU 9 Food Pantry from Katie Hallman earlier this year. The RSU 9 Food Pantry already has a number of volunteers from Tyngtown, including RSU 9’s newest member of the Board of Directors, Amanda Caruso.

Wroble had reported to the Franklin Journal the state of the backpack program in May, stating they had enough funds to finish out the school year, but the following school year was “up in the air.”

Quackenbush, who is also a professor of psychology, said his mother had a passion for helping people all her life.

“She was always concerned about social issues and making the world a better place,” Quackenbush said in an interview. Quackenbush referenced her obituary, stating that her last book, Crisis of Spirit: Our Desperate Search for Integrity, provided an opportunity to comment on contemporary social issues in relation to her own experiences of loss and grief.

“So she always felt that our obligation is to do something good for our community,” he added. “With her, when bad things happen to you, you do something to make the bad good.”

Quackenbush received an heritance from his mother, which he is using to fund “Anita’s Hope” for the next school year. Quackenbush stated he hopes the program will be ongoing and continue for the years to come.

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