2012-07-06 / In the News

Service award winner shares the praise

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer

Jim Elkins, a Scarborough resident, was awarded the first Scarborough Terrace Senior Service Award for his volunteer work at Project G.R.A.C.E. (Michael Kelley photo) Jim Elkins, a Scarborough resident, was awarded the first Scarborough Terrace Senior Service Award for his volunteer work at Project G.R.A.C.E. (Michael Kelley photo) Jim Elkins is the type of person who simply makes his community better. By no means, however, is his service work simple.

For the past four years, Elkins has been volunteering on a weekly basis with Project G.R.A.C.E. (Granting Resources and Assistance though Community Effort), an organization that has been helping Scarborough residents in need since 2000.

Project G.R.A.C.E. provides money to residents to help them with oil, electric bills, rent, food and other necessities. The organization also works with donors to provide backto school items and gifts or food during the holidays and provides scholarships for children to attend recreational programs during the summer.

Last week Elkins was awarded with the first-ever Scarborough Terrace Senior Service Award during an afternoon ceremony at the assisted living facility on Commerce Drive.

“We’re here to celebrate an organization and a gentleman who has done a lot for this community,” said Scarborough Terrace Marketing Manager Elizabeth Simonds to the crowd that included facility residents, board members and volunteers from Project G.R.A.C.E and other members of the public.

After choosing to honor Project G.R.A.C.E, Simonds said Scarborough Terrace reached out to Project G.R.A.C.E. Executive Director Mary Rollo to find someone “who went above and beyond” in serving the residents of Scarborough, particularly the senior citizen population.

Rollo said the choice was clear.

“We really wouldn’t be able to do what we do without our volunteers. It just wouldn’t get done. It would be impossible. Jim doesn’t only volunteer with Project G.R.A.C.E, but throughout Scarborough as well. There isn’t anyone who comes close to Jim.”

As a thank you for his years of service to Project G.R.A.C.E, Elkins was given an engraved plate, as well as $500, which he donated back to the service organization. Project G.R.A.C.E also was awarded $500.

“I’m really honored to get this award, but the praise should really go to Project G.R.A.C.E.,” Elkins said after receiving the award. “Our volunteers range from someone who might come in around Christmas or Thanksgiving to fill baskets. Other people come in to work the phones and other volunteers share their resources with us through financial or in-kind donations.”

“I might be getting the recognition,” he continued, “but it’s really the volunteers of Project G.R.A.C.E that deserve the applause.”

Rollo said after the ceremony that it didn’t take long for Elkins to have a leading role at Project G.R.A.C.E. Elkins began volunteering as a member of the granting resources team, a group of volunteers who man the phones listening to the needs of Scarborough residents. Within a year or two, Rollo said, Elkins took over as the chair of the Granting Resources Committee and last year he was invited to sit on the organization’s Board of Directors.

“It is his skill on the phone that is so impressive to me. We entrust our volunteers with that very big job. It is very specific and very difficult. He approaches it with the compassion that is needed. He comes by that naturally. You can’t teach that,” she said.

Elkins, who has been volunteering with the United Way of Greater Portland and the Greater Portland Chamber of Commerce for the past 14 years, first got involved with Project G.R.A.C.E. by helping to create holiday baskets around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“I saw from that the good work they were doing helping so many needy people in Scarborough,” he said.

From there, Elkins was hooked on the mission of Project G.R.A.C.E. He estimates on a monthly basis, he gives about 10 to 12 hours a month to the organization by manning the phone and sitting on two of the organization’s committees. On a monthly basis Elkins, who has a private career counseling practice, donates 10 hours a week to Project G.R.A.C.E, the United Way and the Chamber of Commerce.

He said during his time with Project G.R.A.C.E, he has seen what kind of community Scarborough really is.

“I wouldn’t be here without the volunteers that participate in Project G.R.A.C.E. I have people on my committee who work tirelessly for others. It’s very gratifying to see how hard everybody works. No one ever says no.”

Nor do the citizens of Scarborough, Elkins said.

“Scarborough is a very giving community. If you ask, they are happy to give,” Elkins said.

Terry Huntley, executive director of Scarborough Terrace said the inspiration for the award came after Louis Fineberg, a resident of the facility, committed to donating $100,000 over the next 10 years to the Scarborough Education Foundation.

“When he donated that money, it got us thinking about senior citizens. We are seniors taking care of seniors. I have been doing this a long time and have been doing this well because it is a passion of mine. If there is a way I can help a senior, I’ll do it. Project G.R.A.C.E. was right along those lines. That’s why we focused on it and that’s why it evolved the way it did,” Huntley said.

Future awards, she said, will be given out on a “case-bycase basis” to individuals making a difference for senior citizens in Scarborough.

“I’d like to stay focused on the senior population, because that’s what we have been doing for so long and that is what Scarborough Terrace is built upon,” Huntley said.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at 282-4337, ext. 237.

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