ROME, Maine — Pine Tree Camp in Rome has been giving children and adults with disabilities opportunities for more than seven decades -- and it shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
On Saturday, September 28, dozens of volunteers joined staff members for a barn raising on the site. The project is designed to create a place to keep animals, like goats, chickens, and piglets, year-round, so campers can care for and connect with them. It will also include accessible gardening space.
"People's eyes sparkle and ears perk up when they hear, 'Oh, baby animals!'" Noel Sullivan, CEO of Pine Tree Society, explained to NEWS CENTER Maine on site. To him, this project is really special.
"It sort of means the world for me. I’ve made my life’s career out of working for nonprofits," Sullivan explained. "There’s always an opportunity to do something new for other people -- to lend a hand to enhance their life experience. So that’s what I get to do for a living, so that’s pretty good."
In the past few months as the project got underway, project sponsor Brent Burger had a similar experience. After Pine Tree Camp approached him, he learned more about the barn and decided he wanted to get involved.
"Some of us I think take it for granted that we can just go walk, and we can go garden, and we can manage a pet," Burger says.
Some volunteers Saturday were from other companies, like Avangrid and Central Maine Power as part of a national volunteer day.
Rhonda Cole said this was one of her first times volunteering for a project like this.
"It’s good to give back and see people come together and have fun."
For fellow volunteer Andrew Haughey, the 'first-time' experience was not quite the case. He actually became involved as a counselor with Pine Tree Camp years ago in the 1980s after coincidentally learning about the camp across the pond in England.
Since then, Haughey has remained loyal to the organization that he says he fully believes in and supports.
"The campers when they come here make lifelong friends. They don’t see each other with disabilities," Haughey expressed to NEWS CENTER Maine. "Because of Pine Tree Camp, they see each other’s abilities and personalities, and that what I think makes it so special."
After a long eight-hour workday, volunteers and staff slowly trickled out, heading home. The barn isn't quite complete yet -- but it's on its way to the finished product.
Staff says they are hoping to get more work done on Sunday, so they can hold a ribbon-cutting sometime this fall.
The barn will likely open to animals and campers in the spring.