Harpswell Coastal Academy students pause for a photo while raking a Harpswell resident’s yard in fall 2022. From left: Ciaran Sandelin, Ella-Rose Biette and Ash Rank.

“A vibrant community recognizes the importance of connecting its people across generations. Harpswell Aging at Home is always looking for new ways to involve our younger neighbors with our older ones to foster mutual respect, understanding and caring,” said LeAnne Grillo, a member of the HAH Steering Committee. As HAH pursues its mission of “helping people thrive while aging at home,” a key endeavor has been establishing intergenerational partnerships with nursery school children and Girl Scouts, in addition to students from middle school through college.

Harpswell’s Girl Scout Troop 1263 joined a HAH-sponsored holiday cookie swap on a Saturday afternoon in December. Entertaining the cookie swappers with carols, the Scouts also handed out holiday cards to the participants.

“We like to do fun things that help the girls feel like they’re making connections with their community while making a difference,” said Abby Svenson, co-leader of the troop. “The girls had a wonderful time and really wanted to connect with those at the event.”

Last fall, students at Harpswell Coastal Academy raked the yards of several Harpswell residents. HAH publicized the opportunity and connected residents with the school.

“Part of our goal is to have the kids give back to their community,” said Natalee Stotz, HCA’s community-based learning coordinator. “It’s an opportunity to have time with someone who is at a different stage in life.”

Last May, HCA students partnered with the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust and HAH to plant and deliver container gardens with lettuce, tomatoes and herbs. The containers were designed to be placed on a porch, thereby avoiding the need for older residents to stoop as they tend to their gardens.

Members of the Bowdoin College Public Health Club partnered with HAH to help with baking and stacking wood. While some students stacked wood for the winter at the homes of older residents, others helped prepare more than 1,000 apples to make apple crisp and applesauce for distribution through HAH’s Meals in a Pinch program.

“It’s service in mutuality and reciprocity,” said Bowdoin junior and club leader Jared Lynch. “To have the opportunity to help while getting to know someone and hear their story is fantastic.”

Preschoolers from The Little House on Maine also play a vital role. During the pandemic, the children started making cards for some of the older residents of Harpswell. The cards were so well received that the project continues today, with cards distributed each month through HAH.

“We think of a theme for each month and have each child create a card to give,” said Rebekah Baumgartner, director and owner of the preschool. “My hope is that the students at my center will grow to understand that such a simple act of kindness can truly have a positive impact on an individual. I know that a child can brighten anyone’s day and I hope that when they receive this card it warms their heart and gives them an extra reason to smile.”

Grillo, the Steering Committee member, summed it up when she said, “Each generation has much to offer the others and HAH is excited to facilitate opportunities which benefit everyone and strengthen our town.”

For more information about HAH, visit its website at hah.commmunity.