REM Award Honorees (2013) — Marlene Myers and Martha Dempski (REM)

For 18 years, thousands of REM volunteers have worked to build a model based on consensus building. These amazing people are all stars in REM’s eyes. But once a year we like to take a moment to celebrate our diversity by choosing to focus on just one or two stars. We like to think hard and let our hearts and minds ponder on what each person has taught us. Everyone has something to share. Some bless us with their abundance. We call these our REM Award Honorees.

This year we have chosen two honorees. Our first honoree, Marlene Myers, has worked in REM for many years. Some people are amazing because of who they are. Some people are amazing because of what they do. The truly amazing are both. There are few of these. Marlene Myers is one of these few. Marlene is a character with character. Her heart and spirit are huge and touch all who know her. She is a fountain of positive energy . . . an energy that fuels all that she does to help others.

Life has given Marlene some of the greatest personal challenges humans experience. Marlene takes on these challenges and creates her own solutions with no complaints. Always, even in personal crisis, her antennae are up for the needs of others. For 15 years Marlene has worked to help make REM what it is today. She has helped us set high standards for how we work together and treat others and the community we serve. We could make here a very long list of the things she has done . . . but that might take away from the miracle that is Marlene . . . the woman of character who has never spoken a demeaning word to anyone. It is who Marlene is that makes REM very proud to honor Marlene Myers with the 2013 REM Award.

Our second REM Award Honoree, Martha Dempski, came one day to “Dream Catch” with Faye Nicholson, REM’s “Dream Catcher”. She spoke with Faye about her wish to have a free place where women could gather, have a cup of coffee, and visit. The place she envisioned was one that would bring hope and encouragement to women from all walks of life. She enjoyed crafting and envisioned that crafting would be a great way to build self esteem and ease conversation for those who had troubled times to discuss.

Martha has worked hard to fulfill her dream for the community of a free place to go that is safe and inviting, comfortable and peaceful, and she calls her space Women’s Initiative. Her dream to sit and knit and visit over a cup of tea and enjoy each others company has been fulfilled hundreds of times. Women’s Initiative is open Monday through Friday and although she has volunteers who help, she can usually be found in the Women’s Initiative space talking with visitors and crafting something fun and beautiful.

The Women's Initiative space offers comfortable chairs for sitting and crafting.

Although REM provided the space, Martha transformed it into the peaceful gathering place it now is. That took an amazing amount of work. And Martha and the women of Women’s Initiative — some guests, some volunteers — have moved toward financial independence at a fast pace. Fundraising efforts have included craft fairs, spaghetti dinners, “Chick Flick Sundays,” and motorcycle runs.

Besides supporting themselves, primarily through craft sales and donations, they have also given their time and talent to address community needs. A team of 18 worked to clean up the alley behind the concourse to make it more acceptable for the Chamber’s Taste of Waterville. They cleaned up the corner of Main and Front Street over two separate weekends, cutting brush and trees, pulling weeds, and planting donated plants and bulbs valued at almost $1,000.

Painted on the wall, this tree in the form of a woman seems to grow out of a bench crafted from a curved tree trunk.

Martha has brought many wonderful services to her guests in addition to her consistent and dependable presence at Women’s Initiative. She has sponsored a different artist each month and encouraged discussion about the artist and the art. The last Monday of each month she sponsors Women’s Health Talks led by Judy McKenzie of MaineGeneral Health.

The focus is still on crafting. Many guests are taught to sew, knit, make felted bags from old wool sweaters, and basic quilting. All sorts of crafting supplies, material, yarn, scrapbooking etc. have been donated which has allowed Martha to offer the teaching at no charge. In some instances, donated materials from older generations have made it possible to teach the old ways of doing things to their new friends. Those friends now number about 120 per month.

Martha’s hard work has fulfilled her dream . . . and REM’s. REM dreams of people coming to share their dreams. REM dreams of being able to give them the support they need to see those dreams come true. We are honored to honor Martha Dempski with the 2013 REM Award.

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