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'Pay It Forward' funds in Bangor help those in need

The only requirement is that users pay it forward in the future to someone with a simple act of kindness.

BANGOR, Maine — The film "Pay It Forward" inspired Rick Bernstein to plant a seed of money in 25 organizations in the greater Bangor area.

The goal is simple: when someone is struggling, lend them a hand. That person is then required to "pay it forward" with an act of kindness in the future.

Bangor Public Health and Community Services is putting the funds to good use.

"We, in our agency, have helped a number of older folks because there tend to be fewer programs available for people. They tend to be just over the income limit for many of the programs that are out there ... with everything from ramps to get into their house, having their septic tank pumped, heating oil, [and] minor home repairs," Rindy Fogler, assistant director at Bangor Public Health and Community Services, said. 

On Monday, the Bangor City Council was slated to consider accepting $4,204 from an anonymous donor to the fund. The donor specified that the money be used for people who need a short-term boost.

"When they can pass that seed on like a game of tag — when they can play tag with the person that is going to receive the funds or the services, and then in turn watch that ripple effect, it really inspires folks," Bernstein said.

"Our charge is basically to be open to people who are in need of help where help might not necessarily be available through other means," Fogler said.

Fogler said the fund had helped people who have needed urgent dental care, a car repair, and a new pair of glasses to properly read, among other things. For example, Linda Arsenault and her husband got money from the fund for some much-needed septic work.

"It happens that our septic system needed to be pumped out. It was full. We didn't have the funds right then to have that done," Arsenault said. "It saved our septic system. It just gave us a breath of fresh air that there was somebody out there that helped us do something."

Arsenault said it wasn't difficult to pay it forward as her husband constantly volunteers at different organizations in Bangor.

Bernstein said an applicant's financial situation doesn't matter. The effort pushes people to get out of their routines and do something significant for another person, even if they don't know the person.

"Getting you to realize that even in spite of whatever problems you are facing today, that you can turn around, and in your everyday life...make that difference," Bernstein said.

Another organization with a Pay It Forward fund is the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter.

"Somebody needed a little extra money to move into an apartment that they didn't quite have. We had a couple of people get jobs that needed boots or nonslip shoes, and we utilized that funding for that," Boyd Kronholm, director of the shelter, said.

"We see a lot of tears, of people who are scared and frustrated, sometimes angry. [In] the Pay It Forward program ... I see a lot of tears, but they are tears of joy," Fogler said.

Bernstein said he is now spreading the effort beyond Bangor, as he recently moved to Mount Desert Island. With his help, he hopes some organizations start the concept to help many in need. 

Besides rindBangor Public Health and Community Services, some of the Bangor agencies who currently have the Pay It Forward funds include:

  • Bangor YMCA
  • Penobscot County Sheriff's Office
  • Penobscot Community Health Center
  • Bangor Area Homeless Shelter
  • Literacy Volunteers of Bangor
  • Community Health & Counseling Services

To donate to a Pay It Forward fund, contact Rindy Fogler at 207-992-4558.

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