A part-time community navigator will start work at the Waldoboro town office on Dec. 1.
The town will contract the Central Lincoln County YMCA to staff the position for 15 hours per week at a cost of $1,632 per month, according to Town Manager Julie Keizer. The expense will not affect taxpayers, as the town will use money from three existing funds set up to provide assistance for widows and orphans.
The town had successfully petitioned the Maine Attorney General’s Office for a trust modification allowing it to combine the funds and use them to support families in need in Waldoboro, and the community navigator program fits that description. As the program tracks its success, the town plans to seek additional funding through grants and private donations.
The community navigator will guide residents toward resources available to meet their needs. These resources include town programs, such as general assistance, as well as other government and private programs.
The addition of a community navigator fulfills a goal of Keizer and the Waldoboro Board of Selectmen, which has pointed to the community navigator at the Boothbay Region Community Resource Council as a model.
The council describes its community navigator program, established in 2011, as a “free and confidential service designed to help families meet essential needs and achieve goals and aspirations” and its community navigator as someone who “connects community members to available resources so that everyone … can meet the challenges of life head on with grace and dignity.”
The program helps residents access “community resources, local and state benefits and assistance programs from housing, food, fuel and clothing to employment, budgeting and financial assistance, and help aging in place.”
While Keizer recognizes that Waldoboro’s program “can’t solve everything overnight,” she believes it will help more people in more ways than the town has been able to on its own.
“The people in Waldoboro are very proud,” Keizer said. “They are reluctant to ask for help until they get in a situation where they are forced to. But you don’t know what you need until you need it.”
Keizer cited three veterans she worked with who were unaware of all the benefits they were entitled to as a result of their service. She said that when the pandemic first hit, the town reached out to all its residents and found that “people living on the verge, those who were one paycheck away from disaster, were very scared.” Keizer believes these are some of the people who will benefit most from working with a community navigator.
“This is exciting,” Keizer said. “The idea came out of the first community forum we held in 2018 and is near and dear to the select board’s heart.”