REM Award Honorees (2018) — Jill Gilbert and Phyliss Pooler (Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter)

Jill Gilbert’s belief in volunteerism was instilled in her at a very young age by accompanying her mother with her community service activities. In the 1980s Jill was deeply involved with the Maine Children’s Home, volunteering and serving in several capacities with the Friends of the Maine Children’s Home. From 2008 to 2012, Jill was Chairman of the MS Walk held in Waterville each year which raised thousands of dollars for multiple sclerosis. In 2008, she received the Alida Camp Memorial Award for her outstanding work.

In 1990, Jill began volunteering at the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter, working on their Accounts Payable. At that time, the shelter was located at 28 Ticonic Street and had one employee, the executive director. During the 1990s, the staff increased to four employees and housed eighteen guests at night.

In 2007 Jill was elected to the board of directors and continues to serve on the board today. Jill became chairwoman in 2009 — the same year that the board decided that the shelter had outgrown 28 Ticonic Street. The Board launched a five-year capital campaign, and thanks to the generosity of businesses, grants, and the community, it raised $3 million dollars to build the new shelter located at 19 Colby Street, Waterville.

Jill has served on the Golf Tournament Committee for the past twenty years with the last ten years as Chair of the event. It has been one of the largest annual fundraisers for the Shelter. In 2017, thanks in part to receiving a $50,000 Match from Gov. Paul LePage’s discretionary charitable fund, the committee raised $110,000 for the 20th anniversary of the golf tournament! In addition to the Golf Committee, Jill has also served on many other fundraising committees at the shelter over the years.

Jill recently retired after a 34-year career as practice administrator at Waterville Anesthesia Associates/Kennebec Anesthesia Associates. Jill has one son, David. She resides in Winslow with her partner, Peter Joseph.

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Phyliss Pooler was born the first of seven children and lived on farms until the age of 12, when her parents, Garold and Ella (McFarland) Alley and siblings moved to Waterville, so that her father could start work at H.T. Winters in Winslow. Phyliss attended her freshman year at Freedom Academy and her sophomore and junior years at Waterville High School. She left school before her senior year to help support her single mom by taking care of children, but went back to school as an adult to receive her high school diploma.

Phyliss married Reginald Pooler on July 14, 1961. They were married just shy of fifty years when he passed away on March 14, 2011. Phyliss is the proud mother of two daughters, Cheryl Hodgdon and Tamera Pooler and a son, Timothy Pooler. Phyliss has five grandchildren, four great grandchildren and has been lovingly called Nana by thousands of children in the Waterville area.

Phyliss provided daycare in her home for many years while her children were young. When her youngest, Tim, started to attend school all day, she went to work at Zayres for ten years. Phyliss was also employed by Klearview Manor for eighteen years.

Phyliss, has been volunteering at the Benton Elementary school since 1996. Generations of students have improved their reading skills by reading to or being read to by the schools warm and friendly volunteer called Nana, who volunteers 15 hours a week with the young students, instilling skills they will need as they get older.

Since 2013, Phyliss has been volunteering at the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter. Phyliss arrives before dinner a couple of weeknight evenings. Her calm, gentle presence brings joy to children, parents and staff. Our shelter always seems brighter when Phyliss is sitting with the children, often knitting, as they read, play, talk and smile with their kind hearted “Nana.”

Phyliss knits 500 pairs of mittens a year and donates them to children in the Waterville area. Rarely a day goes by without a child being warmed by Nana’s kindness.

To learn more about the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter, please visit its website.

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