For this week's topic I would like to talk about community service and what it means to me.


But before I do so, I would like to point out the dedication of Bill Browning, the Reentry Center's facilities community service coordinator. Bill helps to facilitate and organize the community service here at the Reentry Center. And from time to time he goes beyond the call of duty to get guys to work, or to help them make connections with their families. He even went so far as to meet my sister in Windham to pick up my clothes.


Without his efforts, the services we perform wouldn't happen. I believe that community service is one of the many keys to insure the success of the Reentry Centers. Not only do I believe it to be important for those housed here at the at the Reentry Center, but it is important for everyone to participate in community service work in one way or another.


Webster's dictionary gives the definition of community as “a group of people with common interests living in the same area,” and service as “the act of serving” or, “to repair; maintain."


Now I understand that not everyone has the ability to perform the type of community service that we perform here, like volunteering at the soup kitchen or building houses for Habitat for Humanity, but community service could encompass a variety of different things.


When you see someone in need of assistance in some way, and you have the ability to help, then it is your duty as a human being to do so. This could be as simple as holding a door for someone at the supermarket, or helping someone in your neighborhood with snow removal.


For many of us here at the center, helping the community has been our lifeline back into the real world again. Some of us have been so far removed from what we once knew as a community that we're not sure how to get back in.


When I asked a fellow resident what community service meant to him, he stated, “it helped me to figure out how to live again. By connecting with people and being a part of something productive, it gave me a purpose and self-worth.”


He said sometimes it feels as though “the community is serving me.” I can definitely relate to these statements.


When I first arrived at the center, it was August and the Waldo County garden was in full effect. Some weeks I would be there for five out of seven days. I think we harvested around 20,000 pounds of vegetables last year.


The most rewarding part, though, was when we would drop off the vegetables at various places around town. Delivering the produce made me think of all the people I was affecting by my labor in the garden. Somewhere there was a happy family sharing that food together, food that they might not have had if it wasn't for this "service." These thoughts had a powerful effect on me and I submerged myself in as much community service as possible. Little by little, I became a part of the community.


Now, when I walk around town I do so with my head held high. I walk with my head held high because today I am no longer part of the problem, I am part of the solution. We should all do our part to be a part of the solution, and hold ourselves accountable when it comes to repairing and maintaining our communities.


Belfast is a funny little town that is more accepting than I ever could have imagined. It does feel sometimes that the community is serving me. This particular community has helped me to get my life back and regain purpose and integrity. And for that I just would like to say thank you, Belfast.


Shawn Adams is a resident at the Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center in Belfast. His column appears in The Journal every other week. Anyone with questions or comments about the reentry center or the column can contact Shawn at