On Sunday, May 5, Hope Acts of Portland and Tree Street Youth (TSY) of Lewiston received the Governor’s Awards for Service and Volunteerism, which have celebrated and recognized the role of citizen volunteers in the success and vitality of Maine communities since 1987. Hope Acts was honored with the Outstanding Volunteer Team Award for its Hope House English Language Program (HHELP), founded by Linda Carleton. HHELP is a volunteer team of English teachers and tutors who contribute thousands of hours each year, helping asylum seekers and other new Mainers learn English.

HHELP teachers make lesson plans and teach a two-hour class at least once each week, which equals about four hours of volunteer time weekly, or about 172 volunteer hours per teacher per year. Tree Street Youth received the Caring Action Award, a new category created to honor TSY’s compassion, support, and dedication to the victims of the tragic events on October 25, 2023. In response to the tragedy, TSY members distributed Remembrance Ribbons and blue hearts to place around the city; created cards, poems, and art in honor of the victims, first responders, and hospital workers; and hosted Love Lewiston Day on November 3, which was so successful that Mayor Carl Sheline declared it an annual event.

Other distinguished recipients of the awards were The Chickadeeds in Scarborough, recognized for their Outstanding Nonprofit Volunteer Program; Marc Boisssonneault of Saco, named National Service Volunteer of the Year; Merritt Holman of South Portland, celebrated as the Young Maine Volunteer of the Year; Jennifer Fortin of Augusta, nominated for Volunteer of the Year, and Steve Normand of Orrs Island, commended as Volunteer of the Year.

Left to right: Luke Shorty, Volunteer Maine Chair, and Brigadier General Dianne Dunn present the Outstanding Volunteer Team award to HHELP team members John Messer, Magdalene Mbong Mai, Sarah Gauvin, Theresa McCarthy, Susan Gilpin, Linda Carleton, Dorothy Cook, and Francois Mayesi.