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

L.L.Bean CEO Shares His Top Three Leadership Must-Haves for Advancing Change

Steve Smith, L.L. Bean CEO

At a dinner this fall for the second cohort of the John T. Gorman Fellowship, L.L. Bean CEO Steve Smith shared his top three leadership traits - transparency, empathy and integrity - with the Foundation's board, staff and fellows.  These key characteristics, along with "humor", resonated with the group, as necessary elements of a strong values-based culture.   

Steve, who became LL Bean's fourth president in 2015, is a veteran executive who has held chief leadership roles in marketing, customer relations, and merchandising for several international retailers.

The Fellowship, launched in 2015, is designed to help nonprofit and public sector leaders from across the state become more results-focused and build the vision, confidence and competence required to advance change and improve the lives of vulnerable people throughout Maine.

Groups Bring Together Partners to Support Two-Generation Initiative in East Bayside

Diane Garofalo, Senior Vice President of Corporate Human Resources, UNUM; Michael Tarpinian, President and CEO, The Opportunity Alliance; Nicole Witherbee, Chief Program Officer, John T. Gorman Foundation

On November 1, Women United, an affinity group of United Way of Greater Portland, held an event where the group awarded $100,000 to The Opportunity Alliance to support a new, two-generation initiative in Portland's East Bayside neighborhood. Through this investment, The Opportunity Alliance will bring together partners who can help parents pursue employment skills and complete education goals designed to improve their economic security and stability, while simultaneously ensuring their children are on a path from the earliest age to engage in lifelong learning. The complex challenges that these families face require a deliberate and focused approach that aligns resources from community partners for the greatest impact. Initial community partners include Southern Maine Community College, Portland Adult Education, Head Start, Pine Tree Legal, and East End Community School.

Women United launched in February and very quickly raised $120,000 thanks to corporate sponsors including MaineHealth, Unum, Dead River Energy, Gorham Savings Bank, and the John T. Gorman Foundation, along with more than 40 new members. The group focuses on improving the educational, employment and social emotional needs of single mothers and their children in the Greater Portland area. In addition to funding this initiative, Women United has invested $20,000 this year in Portland Housing Authority's efforts to support single moms and their children at the Kennedy Park housing complex through group dinners, financial literacy classes and children's activities.

We're proud to note that Nicole Witherbee, the Foundation's Chief Program Officer, sits on Women United's Steering and Investment Committees.

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Note from the President and CEO

As we head into the holiday season, all of us at the John T. Gorman Foundation are, as always, inspired by the terrific work being done by organizations and communities all over Maine to improve the lives of disadvantaged folks in our State. Trying to address often complicated challenges, groups of cross-sector partners are increasingly working collaboratively to advance innovative new ways of addressing long-standing problems facing children, youth, families and seniors.
In this Fall issue of our Foundation's newsletter, we highlight some exciting programs and initiatives that we think have the potential to truly demonstrate that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
We begin by sharing news about a successful collaboration between three organizations working with youth in the juvenile justice system in Lewiston to provide "diversion" services - intervention approaches that keep young people out of the system - and better serve families. We'll also tell you about the Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential (LEAP) initiative, which provides older youth transitioning out of foster care with a range of opportunities, resources and supports - an important effort since only 3-percent of Maine youth who age out of foster care ever go on to earn a college degree.
We'll highlight a social and emotional learning initiative - a major new component of Portland Public Schools and Portland ConnectED, a collaborative cradle-to-career initiative that has a new director, Matt Dubel.
And to bring it all full-circle, you'll read about how the Foundation - along with leaders and thinkers in Maine and many other states - has become more intentional about advancing a whole family, two-generation approach to individual programs and overall systems change. It's an approach that reinforces what we all instinctively know: that one of the best ways to prevent poor outcomes for children and youth in the future is to invest in ideas and opportunities that can help improve outcomes for parents and caregivers today.
I hope you enjoy this fall newsletter-and what's left of this beautiful fall. On behalf of the John T. Gorman Foundation Board and Staff, please accept our best wishes for a wonderful holiday season.
Please also feel free to send me or any of our staff your questions, comments or suggestions. We're always happy to answer!

- Tony Cipollone, President and CEO

Combining Forces to Improve Outcomes for Youth At-Risk

Tree Street Youth on a hike.
At the John T. Gorman Foundation, we know that successful transition to adulthood can be difficult, even in the best of circumstances. But for those who face significant life challenges - including contact with the juvenile justice system - the transition is even harder. That's why the Foundation took a strategic approach to funding three organizations working with youth in the juvenile justice system in Lewiston.

Over a period of 18 months, the Foundation worked with Tree Street Youth, Inc., The Root Cellar, and Maine Immigrant Refugee Services (MIRS) to provide diversion programs to Lewiston's at-risk youth. Diversion programs use intervention approaches that redirect youth away from formal processing in the juvenile justice system, while still holding them accountable for their actions.  Diverting youth early in the juvenile justice process is important because research shows that more formal processing results in negative outcomes such as increased rates of recidivism and fewer opportunities due to stigmatization.   

Tree Street's "Sequoia" program served as a place where youth involved in the juvenile justice system or at risk of involvement participated in supervised activities, including academic supports, workforce training, and extra-curricular opportunities between the hours of 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Monday through Friday, while the Root Cellar's "Project Rooted" provided a structured, twice-weekly program which included life skills discussion groups and offered youth opportunities to fulfil their community service requirements. The two programs often worked hand-in-hand and their efforts were complemented by MIRS, who worked to ensure the youth and their families understood the juvenile justice system and knew what was required of them.

Continue reading about the Tree Street Youth program here. 

LEAPing from Foster Care to College and Careers - With Help
from Caring Adults and Groups

LEAP program participants are on their way to a brighter future.
Only 3 percent of youth who age out of the foster care system in Maine earn a college degree. For youth in that same age group who are not involved in foster care, 38 percent earn a degree.

To counter that disparity, the Foundation is supporting Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential (LEAP), an initiative that aims to provide older youth transitioning out of foster care with case management, educational supports, job counseling, financial literacy and access to matched savings accounts to help them successfully complete college and connect to meaningful career opportunities. Maine's LEAP initiative - a collaboration between the Muskie School of Public Service, Jobs for Maine's Graduates, Goodwill Industries, Community Care, the Community College and University of Maine systems, and Maine's Office of Child and Family Services - is one of 10 sites nationally to receive a three-to-five year, $1 million grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Corporation for National and Community Service's Social Innovation Fund (SIF).

"We see this initiative as an incredible opportunity to increase the number of youth who age out of Maine's foster care system to successfully earn a college degree or get connected to a career pathway," says Sara Gagné-Holmes, Senior Program Associate at the Foundation.

Continue reading about the LEAP program here.

Exciting Work Continues in Portland to Support Youth
from Birth through Adulthood

Since 2013, the John T. Gorman Foundation has invested in Starting Strong, the early education component of ConnectED, a Portland-based cradle-to-career initiative. The Starting Strong effort brings more than 30 partners from the Portland area together around common goals. Ensuring that all children enter school ready to learn and succeed and that all children read proficiently by the end of the third grade is well aligned with the Foundation's priority of improving educational achievement for young children.
Recently Portland ConnectED welcomed a new Executive Director, Matt Dubel, who is formerly the Director of the Cathance River Education Alliance. Dubel's hiring is exciting news for the many dedicated partners involved in serving children and youth, including Starting Strong - a well-established collaboration that is energizing parents, educators, and others who care about children in the Portland area.
Last month, Starting Strong - a Foundation grantee - hosted its first early childhood summit, with the goal of bringing stakeholders and leaders in Portland together to discuss efforts to strengthen and improve the early childhood system. The summit included a keynote from the former Mayor of Providence, Angel Taveras, who shared insights from early childhood reform efforts that have earned Providence national recognition and more than $11 million in funding.

Continue reading about our work to support youth from birth through adulthood here. 

Convening Brings People Together Across the Spectrum
to Support the Whole Family

Steven Wagner, Acting Assistant Secretary, Administration for Children and Families, addresses 90 people at a recent convening
As the Foundation gets smarter about the work we're doing to help improve the lives of people in Maine, we've realized that it's critically important to become more intentional about having a whole family, two-generation approach to both individual programs and overall systems change.

This thinking is in line with that of many other states, which have been reconsidering how they assist low-income parents to become economically independent.

This is why we helped support a two-day convening in Portland of 90 local, state and federal leaders, business people, funders, program participants and others from all six states in New England, to share information and best practices about how best to implement a whole family approach to family economic success work and align policies across agencies that help parents move into employment.

The convening was the brainchild of the federal Administration for Children and Families, in an effort to improve access to employment and economic independence for families across workforce development, human services, and early care and education policies. The ultimate goal is to create, as much as possible, simultaneous connections to high quality learning environments for children while their parents are getting the supports they need to work or go to school.

"It was inspiring to see people from across the economic and political spectrum invested in this work," says Nicole Witherbee, the Foundation's Chief Program Officer. "This is not a Republican issue or a Democratic issue; it's not a rural vs. urban issue. It's about how you actually change outcomes for kids and parents and break the cycle of generational poverty."

ACF Acting Assistant Secretary Steve Wagner mentioned our work in a recent blog! Read it
here .