About Us
advances and invests in innovative ideas and opportunities that improve the lives of Maine's most vulnerable people. We focus on four key areas: Improving educational achievement for children, promoting successful transitions to adulthood for vulnerable older youth, helping struggling families succeed and enabling seniors to remain in their homes as long as possible.

Our Priority Areas

Maine Women's Magazine Features Nicole Witherbee, C hief Program Officer

Nicole Witherbee, courtesy of Maine Women Magazine

Nicole Witherbee, the chief program officer of the John T. Gorman Foundation, was featured in the March edition of Maine Women's Magazine. The magazine profile's Nicole's leadership in Women United, a project of the United Way, focused on connecting women - primarily single mothers - and their families to key community organizations.

"There's a ripple effect in a community when you connect a mother to a good paying job and ensure that that her children are growing up in a safe, nurturing environment," noted Nicole. "That's our goal - to see a community of mothers and their children thriving and working together to lift up other families."

Shawn Gorman Inducted into Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame

Shawn Gorman, Chair of the Board for the John T. Gorman Foundation, receives Junior Achievement's Business Hall of Fame award

Congratulations to our board chair, Shawn Gorman, on being inducted into the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame! Shawn joined Dana Totman of Avesta Housing and John Coleman of VIA in receiving this prestigious honor.

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Note from the President and CEO

It is with cautious optimism for continued warm weather that I welcome everyone to the Spring edition of the John T. Gorman Foundation Newsletter!

Spring is a season of growth and renewal, and that is particularly true at the John T. Gorman Foundation - both for us as well as many of our grantees and community partners. For example, as you'll see in this newsletter, we're seeing growth in Lewiston via a significant new HUD Neighborhood Choice Grant that could be transformational for the Tree Street Neighborhood. Lewiston, along with Los Angeles and Philadelphia, were selected over several other cities in a very competitive awards process.

We're also very excited to share stories of the expansion of two programs we've funded in recent years: Opportunity Youth Passport and Gateway to Opportunity. Both programs achieved strong results, helping older youth who face significant challenges take advantage of new opportunities that can increase their economic stability and help them succeed in the workforce and in life.
Rounding out these program updates is a snapshot of a new effort by Women United - an affinity group of the Greater Portland United Way - to take a "Two-Generation" approach to helping young children and their parents in one Portland neighborhood.

Closer to home, this newsletter talks a bit about our own expansion and introduces a new member of the John T. Gorman staff: Joy Engel, who recently became our first director of communications.

We'll share other staffing news in the coming weeks, as well as our first-ever policy brief centered around the plight of vulnerable older youth in Maine. This brief highlights examples of local programs that make a difference and suggests potential policy recommendations that can increase the odds that these young people will successfully transition to adulthood. We plan on releasing this on May 22nd - stay tuned!

Finally, I want to refer folks to a new posting on our website that summarizes the results of our recent strategic planning process. Those who are aware that we undertook this process often ask us about what will change at the Foundation in the coming years. The short answer is: very little. Our mission, values and main priorities will remain the same, and we're just as passionate about the work as ever before. But through some new Core Funding Strategies, we hope to get even more focused over the next five years. To that end, we hope to support more comprehensive strategies in communities where we've seen some success, promote strategies that address the needs of parents and children simultaneously, replicate proven strategies more broadly and fund innovative ideas to address traditional challenges facing disadvantaged Mainers.  Our end game is to advance program and community success that can inform and influence system and policy change - which we believe is key to improving lives on a greater scale. 

All of us who work at the John T. Gorman Foundation are immensely humbled to be able to do the work that we do. We're confident that our new strategic plan can help us and our partners across the state be even more impactful in the years to come.

As always, please don't hesitate to reach out with any questions, comments or suggestions.
- Tony Cipollone, President and CEO

Lewiston is America's First Small City to Receive HUD Choice Grant
Tony Cipollone, President and CEO of the John T. Gorman Foundation and US Senator Susan Collins tour an apartment building in the Tree Street Neighborhood of Lewiston

If you grew up in Lewiston's Tree Street neighborhood, you knew there was a problem with the housing stock. Lead rates three times higher than anywhere else in the state. A series of fires that terrorized the neighborhood and displaced hundreds of people. Mold coating the walls of kitchens.

The poor housing stock was the great unspoken secret of that neighborhood. To many, the problem felt too big and the resources too scarce to make any real difference. Before the first fires started in 2013, it seemed people were resigned to the problem being too big to solve.

The 12 blocks that make up the Tree Street neighborhood are home to the greatest population of children under five living in Maine. It also has the state's highest concentration of lead exposure and historically the lowest rates of lead testing.

A few years ago, the city of Lewiston, along with many area community partners, received an initial grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for $3.4 million, specifically to work on lead abatement and address other housing-related health issues such as mold, asbestos and trip and fall concerns for seniors. It was a step in the right direction, but so much more needed to be done. Beyond housing concerns, the neighborhood was home to high unemployment and many families living well below the federal poverty line. To begin to address all these concerns, the John T. Gorman Foundation funded an employment initiative focused on construction. 

Seeing the success in this and recognizing ways to tie this all together, we convened our grantees on separate occasions and asked them to find the three most important issues that they could take on collectively. They choose education, housing and employment.

Gateway to Opportunity: Opening More Doors for Youth in Maine

Participants in the Gateway to Opportunity Program
I t's no secret that the employees of the John T. Gorman Foundation are passionate about their work. We feel a deep urgency in our work, and we're excited about the outcomes created by our community partners. Spend a few minutes in senior program associate Sara Gagné-Holmes' office, and you'll walk out feeling  inspired about the outcomes around the Gateway to Opportunity (G2O) project. Her enthusiasm is contagious.

"We're seeing real change," she notes. "Change in the kids as they learn new skills and start thinking about using these skills in a future job, but also a change in how our community and businesses view Maine's young people. Businesses struggle to find skilled workers, and young people struggle to find meaningful employment. G2O bridges that divide. Maine's employers are seeing that first-hand."

What exactly is the Gateway to Opportunity Project and why is Sara so excited about it? It's a summer program that launched in 2016, connecting low-income, young people - traditionally rising juniors and seniors in local high schools - with paid, work-based learning opportunities where they hone and develop the skills they need to find a job after they graduate from high school. The high school students are matched with students at USM who serve as team leaders and role models.  

Creating a Passport to a Brighter Future for Vulnerable Young People

Maine students participating in Opportunity Passport training
Navigating the transition from adolescence to adulthood can be difficult for even the most well-connected teenager. Consider the potential difficulties in the path to adulthood for Maine's most vulnerable older youth (those aged 16 to 26 who are in the foster care system, have experienced homelessness or encountered the juvenile justice system).

When considering the needs of this group, you'd be right, of course, if your first thoughts went to ensuring they have access to healthy meals tonight and no worries about where tomorrow's meals or shelter will come from. But beyond these basic human needs, other important issues don't always get the same level of attention. These young people need training to help enter the work force or to navigate the post-secondary education enrollment process. And they need help understanding how to manage the money they make.

One of life's most important skills is learning how to responsibly use and manage money. And yet, financial literacy is rarely - if ever - part of any core curriculum. Adolescents may learn these skills from a parent or trusted adult, but far too many Maine's adolescents don't have that trusted advisor. For even more, their parents or guardians never learned about financial literacy themselves, making the path to economic success even more difficult.

The Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative has a program meant to make that path a little easier to follow: The Opportunity Passport program. Originally designed specifically for youth in foster care, program participants create a savings account in which approved spending on things such as education, housing, healthcare, and transportation is matched dollar-for-dollar, up to $1,000. Along the way, participants learn key elements of financial management through financial mentoring, save money and set goals for their future.

Welcome Joy Engel, the New Director of Communications 
for the John T. Gorman Foundation!

Joy S. Engel, Director of Communications
As we worked on our goals for the next five years of the Foundation, we realized that a core part of becoming more focused was to expand the breadth of our communications activities. Therefore, we're pleased to announce the creation of a new role and a new hire by welcoming  Joy Engel, our director of communications.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Joy served as a vice president at the DC-based public affairs firm, VOX Global. A native of Maine, Joy is passionate about the Foundation's mission and looks forward to working with and learning from her new colleagues and our various partners across the state.