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Grandparents inspire Philanthropic Giving Across the Generations

Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT) finds itself the grateful recipient of gifts from two different sets of grandparents and grandchildren. Each gift was inspired and funded by the elder generation, with the decision of where to direct the gift provided by the younger.  

Joyce and Bill Fletcher with grandson Ben Israel

In the case of Joyce and Bill Fletcher and their grandson, Ben Israel, Joyce explains, “our offer to the grandchildren did not put many conditions on their donation. We simply said that we wanted them to think about an issue they cared about and an organization they knew personally that was addressing their concerns in a meaningful way.” Ben, a sophomore at Bowdoin, did some research and reported back to his grandparents that he wished to support BTLT and Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program (MCHPP), observing I think that these local charities will be able to make a big impact on the larger Mid Coast Maine community and I hope to give back to the community I’ve grown up and now go to school in.” He furthered,

sometimes it’s easy to get bogged down by the weight of a problem like climate change but I believe that local organizations such as BTLT and MCHPP are how change is truly made.”

Nina Comiskey and grandchildren (Ned in stripes)

Nina Comiskey followed a similar protocol with her grandchildren, giving each of them a blank check at Christmas and asking them to do a little research about where to direct the support. Her grandson, Brunswick Junior High School 8th grader Ned Boak, chose BTLT because he felt a local gift would have more of an impact and he wanted other families to have the chance to be outdoorsy like his. He noted that Woodward Point Preserve is one of his favorite BTLT properties. Nina reflects, “we could have donated to a charity in their name, but I think the blank check idea has been a great way, a better way, to introduce them to the importance of philanthropy.”  

Indeed. Land conservation is a forever promise; these multi-generational gifts embody this promise beautifully. We are grateful to these wise grandparents and thoughtful grandsons for their support of our work. 

Land Trust & Library Receive Largest Bequest Ever

Curtis Memorial Library (CML) and Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT) each recently received significant bequests from the estate of long-time Brunswick resident, Wallace Pinfold, who passed away on November 1, 2021. These gifts – the largest in the history of both organizations – will enhance the endowments of both CML and BTLT for the benefit of the communities each serves for generations to come.

Wallace Pinfold was a remarkable individual. A gifted French language interpreter and translator, Wallace was a Peace Corps volunteer in Togo, a ranger naturalist in Yosemite, and a gardener in greater Brunswick. He authored one book, co-authored another, and traveled to far-flung destinations around the world, collecting ceramics, paintings, and photographs along the way. He was a brilliant conversationalist with rare listening skills. “I had the great pleasure of working with Wallace a few years ago to design a small perennial garden in a space in my yard created by the removal of a tree,” recalls BTLT Board President Emily Swan. “Wallace’s wide-ranging and on-point observations during our search for plants and rambles through the garden transformed what might have been an otherwise mundane experience into an
entertaining and educational adventure. And I have never met anyone with more impeccable manners.”

 

Pinfold volunteering at the Curtis Friends Annual Book Sale (2016)

“We had the great pleasure of knowing and working with Wallace Pinfold for over 25 years. As a gardener, author and voracious reader, Wallace’s gifts to the library took many forms,” shared Curtis’ Executive Director Elisabeth Doucett. When the new library building opened in 1999 and the Village Improvement Association (VIA) financed the construction of the Reading Garden, VIA member Wallace continued to carefully steward this well-loved green space. Serving on Curtis’ Board of Directors from 2012 to 2018, Wallace was a thoughtful fundraiser; never missed working at the Curtis Friends annual book sale; and brought his quick wit, warmth and love of literature to every board meeting, event, and encounter with a fellow reader.

To honor his late mother – a long-time library volunteer – Wallace established the Jean Laidlaw Pinfold Flowers Fund in 2018. Most days, a floral arrangement from Mare Brook Farm graces the library lobby in a favorite vase given by Wallace.

Memorial gifts to the library received at Wallace’s passing were used to restore the gardens surrounding the Middle Street entrance to the library this summer, thanks to the support of many volunteer master gardeners led by Noreen Williams. In addition to native flowers and trees, a variety of Siberian and Japanese irises from the stock of late renowned hybridizer, Currier McEwen of Harpswell, were donated and planted under the guidance of Pinfold family friend, Sharon Whitney of Eartheart Gardens.

Curtis Memorial Library’s Board of Directors have designated a majority of Wallace’s bequest to the library’s endowment fund in support of its long-term health. A portion of the funds will be directed to fund several more immediate projects that align with Wallace’s love of gardening and the library.

Wallace was a member of the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust for 17 years, where he was motivated by the opportunity to conserve land in his community. Inspired by the environmentalism of his father, local veterinarian Dr. Russel Pinfold, Wallace’s early involvement with BTLT included supporting the conservation of Crystal Spring Farm. “Wallace’s generosity during his lifetime helped us to conserve many of the most special natural areas in our community. His extraordinary bequest will allow us to steward these lands into the future and make sure that we are able to fulfill the commitment we make with each piece of land we conserve,” noted Angela Twitchell, Executive Director, BTLT.

The Board of Directors of the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust has designated the bulk of Wallace’s bequest to its long-term land stewardship fund. When BTLT conserves a parcel of land, it makes a promise that it will care for the land forever. This commitment extends to maintaining trails and public access, making sure the terms of an easement are honored, removing invasive plants, or promoting a sense of place and a love of the land through education and outreach. Wallace’s bequest will ensure that BTLT’s stewardship endowment will provide funds on an annual basis to support stewardship needs.

4,600+ Pounds of Blueberries Harvested to be Donated to Good Shepherd, Preble Street, and Indigenous communities throughout Maine

By Lydia Coburn, BTLT Communications Coordinator

The morning of Friday August 5th I headed out to Crystal Spring Farm to witness something truly exceptional. 

As I walked through the forested trails, the trees provided great shade on one of these hot summer days we’ve had so many of. I rounded the corner, to what opens up to the blueberry barrens. It doesn’t look like much, but I knew it held a deep history, unique ecology, and great potential for giving. 

These fields have existed for thousands of years, with the blueberry plants living deep beneath the ground, sending shoots up to the surface each summer.

What I stood upon was a Sandplain Grassland – a natural ecological community ranked as “critically imperiled” by the Maine Natural Areas Program. The 21 sandy acres that are part of Crystal Spring Farm were deposited by rivers of glacial meltwater about 13,000 years ago, and are superb for the growth of low-bush blueberries, among other unique plant species. Since conserving the blueberry barren, BTLT has conducted two controlled burns to support the grassland vegetation and rare species that depend on this imperiled habitat. The most recent burn in spring 2021 on 14 acres of the blueberry barren proved to be extremely beneficial, as the wild blueberries are thriving this season! 

BTLT summer intern Cora Spelke and and Seth Kroeck of Maquoit Wild Blueberries/Crystal Spring Farm.

Even before I truly entered the barren, I could see multiple families crouched over with containers in their hands, and smiles on their faces. Both families remarked at just how abundant the fields were this season! But the true reason for my visit was a bit further past the “no blueberry picking beyond this point” sign. Lured by the sounds of a tractor, I made my way over to Seth Kroeck of Maquoit Wild Blueberries/Crystal Spring Farm and BTLT summer intern Cora Spelke who were hard at work harvesting crate after crate of blueberries. 

During one of his daily walks earlier this summer, Seth, who leases the land abutting Crystal Spring Farm for organic commercial blueberry production, noticed that the blueberries that had been recently burned were looking good – really good. Blueberries (and fruit) are far less frequently donated to food banks and folks who are food insecure because of their short shelf life, high commercial value that many farmers depend on, and the fees that come with processing and freezing fruit to preserve it. While looking at the bumper blueberry crop at Crystal Spring Farm however, Seth saw an opportunity to bring together organizations to harvest and donate blueberries from just a small portion of the barrens at Crystal Spring Farm while still leaving plenty of the delicious berries for wildlife and the community for u-pick. 

Working in 60 inch passes, the tractor grazes along the wild landscape harvesting blueberries.The organic average for harvesting is about 1,000 pounds per acre.

Due to the impressive bounty of berries this season, Seth’s objective was to mechanically harvest as many pounds as they could by mid-day from 3.5 acres that were set aside by BTLT for donation. By the time I arrived, they had been out there for an hour or so, and already had quite a few crates filled with blueberries. Seth predicted they’d harvest at least 2,000 pounds by the end of the day. Once harvested, the crates would be packed up and sent to a hub in Union, Maine where they would be consolidated. Next, off to be processed and frozen in Ellsworth, via Merrill Blueberries. After their long journey, these blueberries will be donated to families and individuals experiencing food insecurity through Good Shepherd and Preble Street as well as to Indigenous communities throughout Maine.

Each crate weighs about 22 pounds – during the consolidation process, about 13-15% of that weight is lost due to finding smashed berries, sticks, leaves, etc.

It was quite a sight to see – just a few folks, one tractor, and acres of hilly-landscape with the potential to feed. The very next day, I received an email from Seth informing me that they completed the task around 4:00 pm, with a whopping 4,655 pounds harvested! It’s an amazing cycle to ponder, from the burn, to new growth, to prosperity, to sharing. What an incredible natural landscape we have the honor of tending to and caring for, and the land returns the favor ten-fold. 

The different shades, sizes, and flavors of berries are different variations of the plant being expressed in slightly different ways.

Nature is powerful – so are you!