The Maine Service Fellows program is a state-sponsored corps whose members dedicate nearly a year to serving communities. Established in 2021 by the legislature (5MRSA c.373 §7506), its mission is to
- Provide rural and underserved communities in the State a resource to address critical health and human, public safety, education and environmental needs;
- Increase the opportunities for individuals to devote a year of service to communities in the State;
- Attract to and retain in the State motivated adults who have completed a college degree within the prior five years to serve in positions where they can apply skills and abilities to projects for the benefit of citizens of the State; and
- Strengthen civic engagement of both the program fellows and community residents through solutions based in whole or in part in volunteer service.
Initially, the program will prioritize assistance that helps communities cope with and recover from the impact of COVID-19.
Maine Service Fellows is a program of Volunteer Maine, the state service commission, and not part of the AmeriCorps national service network.
The program is open to communities located in parts of the state defined as very rural under the USDA Rural-Urban Continuum Codes. Specifically, that means communities in Aroostook, Washington, Hancock, Piscataquis, Franklin, Somerset, Oxford, Lincoln, Knox, or Waldo counties as well as towns in Penobscot County with populations of 5,000 or fewer residents.
One organization may apply as the host for a work plan developed by individual towns or multiple communities. Eligible host organizations are county or municipal government, school districts, local nonprofits, faith-based organizations, or regional organizations authorized by the community to lead the effort.
While any impact of COVID-19 is the priority for the first three years, the needs mentioned by community representatives designing the program include
- Workforce development
- Substance use prevention and recovery
- Public health issues and mental health
During their term of service, the Fellows must spend 20% of their time developing regional networks of volunteer programs. The resulting connections will add to community resilience and support engagement of all residents in civic life.
Because Maine Service Fellows is not a National Service program, host sites can expect
- A streamlined application and review process. It will not take up to 12 months from application to approval as a host.
- A smoother onboarding process for both host sites and Service Fellows.
- Reasonable accountability procedures for host agency staff.
- Supports for Service Fellows that are attractive to local recruits as well as recent college graduates who want to get to know Maine by living here.
Full guidelines for proposing to host a Maine Service Fellow will be available late Spring 2022.
Individual participation: Serve for a year
Maine Service Fellows offers anyone who has completed college within the last 5 years, an opportunity to apply their skills and knowledge to critical needs in rural communities. Fellows commit nearly one year to working full-time through a host organization and living among the residents served.
In addition to honing skills, knowledge, and abilities, serving as a Fellow is an opportunity to
- Explore public and nonprofit careers
- Develop a professional network
- Demonstrate the ability to address and improve a community issue
- Immerse oneself in the year-round life of a Maine community
- Make an authentic difference
Maine Service Fellows are not employees of the host organization but they will receive financial support. The living allowance is set by law at 212% of the federal poverty level (total $27,305 for 2022) and does not vary regardless of a candidate’s experience, training, education, location, or project responsibilities. The purpose of a living allowance is to allow someone to commitment to full-time service for nearly a year. Health coverage is available for those who need it. On successful completion of the service year, Fellows are eligible for an end-of-service financial award that can be applied to education-related debt.
Details on the service commitment and application materials for Maine Service Fellows will be available late Spring 2022.
The Maine Service Fellows program is funded as a public-private partnership. Sponsors from the private sector contribute funds to cover the cost of supporting a Fellow for a year. This financial resource means Fellows can serve in communities that are stressed financially. Locally, the host organization and community partners cover project materials, supervision, work materials for the Fellow (internet, phone, office supplies, etc.) but the funds to support the Fellow’s service (living allowance, health insurance, etc.) are fully covered by the program.
The Maine Volunteer Foundation, the nonprofit partner of Volunteer Maine, leads the private fundraising efforts. Individuals, businesses, foundations, and others who may want to invest in the program should contact Bill Birney, President, Maine Volunteer Foundation, by using the contact page on the Maine Volunteer Foundation website -- access here.
Anyone who would like to support recruitment or training of Fellows can donate now through the Foundation. Please use the link below to access the donation page.
Learn more about the Maine Volunteer Foundation (MVF) here by visiting their website. Use the link below to access the page.
Launch status: timeline
|October 18, 2021||Enacted law creating Maine Service Fellows program takes effect.|
|November 2021||Target start date for Maine Service Fellows Coordinator (see call out box labeled "program coordinator" if interested)|
|Establish Advisory Committee to guide the program launch|
|January-March 2022||Complete development of program policies, procedures, and rules.|
|April/June 2022||Launch program|
F. Celeste Branham, Immediate Past Chair of Volunteer Maine, will chair the Maine Service Fellows Advisory Committee. Recruitment of community members is underway.
The committee will build on the work of a program design task force that developed the concept and hosted a community design workshop, called a Think Tank, in November 2020. Twenty-five representatives of nonprofits, municipalities, and foundations participated in the virtual workshop and answered these questions:
- What are the traits of communities who could benefit most from the service of a Fellow?
- What abilities would the host organization need to have?
- What sorts of accountability to funders and the community should a host be held to?
- What criteria should the Commission consider in selecting hosts for Service Fellows?
- Considering the traits of organizations likely to host, what are the critical skills, knowledge, abilities all Fellows should have in order to succeed in a service placement?
- What community supports would a Fellow need in order to thrive and succeed in the service assignment?
- What benefits (tangible and intangible) should the program and host site offer in order to attract candidates likely to succeed in a service placement?
- What should a community sponsor do to help the person put down roots in Maine?
Advisory Committee members will also represent a cross-section of community organizations. Required representation includes town managers, regional planning organizations, rural government leaders, not-for-profit organizations, and the Maine Municipal Association.
The program statute directs the committee to advise the Commission to ensure the program is focused on local leadership; suggest criteria for the selection of program fellows; encourage publicity of the program, particularly for recovery initiatives related COVID-19; and assist the Commission in monitoring progress of the program.
For more information
For updates on program development and launch, contact Maryalice Crofton, Volunteer Maine Executive Director, via email at Maryalice.Crofton@maine.gov.