Aroostook County  -  Each year, patients of TAMC’s County Dialysis Center receive a box complete with a turkey dinner and all the trimmings thanks to the generosity of TAMC employees, donors and the legacy of a former dialysis patient who passed away four years ago.

TAMC

Providing a traditional meal to their extended family is exactly what inspires the staff at County Dialysis to ensure the turkey basket project, first introduced in 2002, continues year after year.  Patients who utilize the critical services offered by County Dialysis require life sustaining treatment three times a week.  Some travel considerable distances for this treatment.

“We have a special relationship with our patients, since we see them several times a week, usually for a period of years,” said Pamela Frank, manager of County Dialysis Center.  “Our patients face a lot of daily challenges with dietary restrictions and financial burdens related to their health.  We are privileged to be able to know these individuals, and this is one small way we can make their lives a little easier.”

The Thanksgiving Give-Away project is made possible through the generosity of TAMC employees and community donors.  Funds are raised for the turkey baskets by TAMC team members who donate money and get to dress in more casual attire on the last Friday of September.  Similar “dress casual” Fridays happen monthly for various other worthwhile causes.

The families of 44 dialysis patients received baskets for Thanksgiving.  Each of the baskets contains a complete meal, including the turkey, potatoes, stuffing, vegetables, rolls and even a pie for dessert.

Among the community donors supporting the cause are Mark Kelley, owner of Country Farms Market in Washburn, and Mike Gallagher, owner of Country Farms Market in Easton.  The duo provided the boxed items for the meal, stuffed with more than $30 worth of holiday food, at their cost.  They make several trips to the County Dialysis Center at TAMC’s North Street Healthcare in Presque Isle in the days leading up to Thanksgiving to deliver the frozen turkeys and boxes filled with trimmings to employees, who in turn hand them out to patients.

The Easton store, previously owned by Kelley and his wife, has provided the groceries since the very first year of the project.  It was a long-time employee of the store, Monica Cilley of Easton, herself a patient at County Dialysis, who worked alongside staff at the center to start up the project and sustain it every year until she passed away.

“This is a great project,” said Kelley.  “It makes you feel good to give back to the community and to help brighten the holidays for those who need a little lift.  It has been especially meaningful to us to carry forward this tradition that meant so much to Monica and to continue her legacy of helping others.”

Once Kelley purchased the Washburn store, both stores supported the effort.  Although Gallagher now owns the Easton store, both stores still operate together under the Country Farms Market name and both plan to continue their involvement in the County Dialysis Thanksgiving Dinner Giveaway project.

“I had the honor of getting involved with this project when I was working as the general manager for Country Farms Market, and now, as owner of the Easton store, I am committed to keeping this wonderful tradition going,” said Gallagher.  “Giving back to the community is important no matter what the time of year, but it seems particularly appropriate during this time when we are all counting our blessings.”

This year was particularly meaningful as the family of Ivan Malone, a County Dialysis patient who passed away earlier this year, joined the staff in handing out the Thanksgiving dinner packages in order to pay tribute to him.

“Ivan was a great guy who helped out other patients as much as he could,” explained Frank.  “He even transported a fellow elderly patient from the Houlton area who was unable to drive to his dialysis appointments, since they shared the same days.  He was known for his great sense of humor and loved to tell jokes and laugh.  His family was looking for a way to honor his memory, and this seemed like an appropriate way to do that.”

In the 12 years since the turkey basket project more than 630 complete holiday meals have been given to County families with loved ones undergoing dialysis treatment.

TAMC’s County Dialysis Center is the only of one of its kind north of Bangor.  Patients utilizing the facility have received over 92,700 treatments since it opened its doors in 1997.