Fort Kent

Hospital employees pay holiday tradition forward

FORT KENT, Maine — Sharing and caring are long-standing traditions at Northern Maine Medical Center, and this year, a group of employees decided to pay another NMMC tradition forward by sharing what the hospital gave to them in an extra caring way. 

For decades, NMMC has engaged in an annual tradition of gifting its employees a main course for their holiday meals. Each employee receives one turkey, or an occasional ham on years when turkeys have been in short supply, to enjoy in any way they please. Sometimes that enjoyment comes from preparing a special feast to share with loved ones during the holidays, and others enjoy sharing outside of their immediate circle of friends and family, which is exactly what the radiology team at NMMC decided they were going to do with their birds this year — only they took that act of sharing one step farther. 

NMMC Radiology Supervisor Cindy Oakes said when she was passing out the tickets for turkeys in her department this year, an employee asked to donate the turkey to a family in need. That’s far from an uncommon request. Over the years, when employees have declined their gift because maybe they already had plans for their holiday meal or preferred another option, the hospital took up the practice of donating all turkeys that go unclaimed to local churches and food pantries. Many employees appreciate that they can pay forward NMMC’s gift to experience the joy of giving to others simply by not claiming their turkey. This year alone, NMMC was able to donate more than 100 turkeys in this way.  

Oakes, however, casually asked her other staff if they knew of any specific families in the community that would need a turkey. Before long, that casual conversation amongst staff blossomed into a full-fledged idea — they would take up an internal collection to donate an entire holiday meal for the family. 

That simple idea, as ideas sometimes do, kept growing as the spirit of giving embraced the radiology department. NMMC X-ray and CT technologist Jesse Morneault, whose wife is a teacher at Madawaska Elementary School, knew that there were several families in the Madawaska school community who could benefit from holiday meals. Once other employees in the department heard about the larger number of families they could support, they decided also to donate their turkeys and they stepped up their collection efforts to make sure everyone had what they needed to feed their families a special meal this holiday. 

“In total, we donated eight turkeys and $85 for potatoes, carrots, stuffing, etc.,” said Oakes. “Our hearts are happy knowing we can help a few families have a nice meal together during the holidays.”

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