Karl Schatz, right, readies a dish for serving Saturday evening at the Community Plate event he helped organize at LA Arts at 168 Lisbon St. in Lewiston. Community Plate’s mission is to foster connections and community through food, preserving family recipes and histories. Each participant is invited to prepare a story and a dish to share. The group says it envisions a world united by shared meals and stories. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — Community Plate and LA Arts teamed up Saturday night for a story sharing potluck supper at the LA Arts Gallery on Lisbon Street in Lewiston.

The supper’s theme, “To Lewiston With Love,” paid tribute to LA Arts’ postcard project, launched in November to help community members cope with loss after the Oct. 25 mass shooting.

Community Plate is a nonprofit organization created by Karl Schatz and Margaret Hathaway, owners of Ten Apple Farm at 241 Yarmouth Road in Gray. The couple are known for their many cookbooks, which include the “Maine Bicentennial Community Cookbook” and “Maine Community Cookbook, Volume 2.”

Community Plate has held eight free Story Sharing Potluck Suppers in communities across Maine since July 2023. Supper attendees bring a dish to share, the recipe and a story behind their meal, before prepared storytellers share tales with guests.

Isaiah Alexander of Farmington, left, and Tessa Shanteler of Waterville share a laugh Saturday evening with others at the Community Plate event at LA Arts at 168 Lisbon St. in Lewiston. The two say they came prepared to share a meal and stories with new friends. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Schatz and Hathaway said when they were putting the “bicentennial” cookbooks together, they saw people hungry to share their experiences with others and be a part of something bigger.

“We thought, ‘Let’s do some events that are basically taking this book off the page,’” Hathaway said. “We felt this was a wonderful way to expand communities in our state’s community.”


Added Schatz: “Especially in places like Lewiston, where people are hurting, people feel like they need to know there’s connection between them and their neighbors and that people are there to support one another. That’s what these suppers are all about is bringing people together and showing them that we have more in common than we do differences.”

Lewiston Mayor Carl Sheline invited Community Plate to Lewiston when he met Schatz at The Corner, a live storytelling event at LA Arts at 168 Lisbon St. Having already traveled from Freeport to Lubec and Bath to Waterville, Schatz and Hathaway said they felt Lewiston would be a perfect place to hold a supper.

While guests dined and told one another their own stories, the speakers at the main event captured the spotlight during dessert.

Holly Sysco, left, chats Saturday with Matt and Martha Agren at the Commiunity Plate event at LA Arts at 168 Lisbon St. in Lewiston. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Lewiston-born artist Charlie Hewitt took the storytelling lead, followed by a story from Sheline. Some of the later speakers were expected to present a poem from the “To Lewiston With Love” series and a tribute to the late Michael Parent by Phyllis Blackstone of Brunswick.

Hewitt spoke of his experiences growing up in Lewiston and Auburn, how they affected him as he found his way to New York City and back again and what they have meant to him and his art.

Hewitt said that when he was a boy living in New Auburn, he and his friends spotted a basketball floating down the Androscoggin River — a river made filthy by industry during that time.


“You weren’t supposed to go in there,” Hewitt said, “but who’s going to keep a bunch of kids from getting a ball?”

The moment Hewitt emerged from the river, a police officer spotted him and his friends. The officer demanded their names and addresses and told them to meet him at the river at 9 a.m. the next morning.

When they did as instructed, the officer opened his trunk and pulled out baseball bats, gloves, balls and T-shirts with “Police Athletic League” printed on them.

“We became the New Auburn Ramblers,” Hewitt said. “It was unbelievable. We played in the backyard, with a brick for a pitching mound, and now we’re playing on baseball fields. It was wonderful. That officer saw us. We were not ‘other.’ We were special.”

After returning to Lewiston, Hewitt said it really him how the country had become so divided that he could count on at least half of everyone not liking him just by default.

“I was shocked,” he said. “I just couldn’t get what happened. I had two choices: I could run to my corner, clutch my pearls and try to throw rocks at the other side, or I could do something different.”


When Hewitt was asked to put a sculpture atop a building on Forest Avenue in Portland, he decided the message needed be a single word, likely something leaving him a little vulnerable — “Hopeful.”

“The reason I decided on a marquee sign is because it represented to me a time in this country when we celebrated our lives,” he said. “We were about seeing each other. We cared about each other. It was a time for optimism.

“‘Hopeful,’ to me, required action,” Hewitt said, “and all of a sudden, I had a responsibility to a word, to an attitude.”

And on the night that Portland lit his first “Hopeful” sign, Hewitt said: “That was the night I saw my community. I saw myself as that boy.”

He added: “I found myself humbled, honored, and I thought of that officer seeing me. The ability to give something back meant so much.”

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