The Camden Area District Nursing Association, in its 100th year, is recognized in the dedication of the 2020 Annual Report for the town of Camden.


Camden has always been blessed with many residents and visitors who are generous with their time, ideas and money, and who often join forces to form organizations, which continue for a long time. But seldom is a community so fortunate to have an organization that lasts so long, or contributes so much, as the the Camden Area District Nursing Association.

The mission of the District Nursing Association is simple and important. They work to provide nursing care to residents in their own homes, regardless of their ability to pay. There are many Camden residents who continue to fall through the cracks of our healthcare system, and the registered nurses employed by the organization provide home visits, medication management, coordination with family members and physicians, wellness checks, flu shots and a variety of medical equipment and devices.

The mission of helping residents with unmet medical and health needs has been the same for a century. The town of Camden is grateful for the initial vision, and for the generations of public service that have followed, as countless volunteers, donors and dedicated employees have quietly touched thousands of lives.

Barbara Dyer reminds us of the history of the organization and a glimpse of what she remembers first hand.

Dyer wrote: In October 1920, a thoughtful, caring group of ladies met at the YMCA under the leadership of Mary Annis. Their purpose was to have a public health nurse for anyone in need of their kind services. The ladies who started it are J.F. Hooper, Emily Jaegels, Mary Bartlett, J.F. Knowlton, E.N. Duffy, Alice Messinger, T.G. Ritterbush and Emma Harford. The first nurse, Helen Cobb, was hired in February 1921 for $100 per month.

They chose not to be under the jurisdiction of the Red Cross or Knox County Health Association, but did attend public meetings in Rockland. As Camden did not have a hospital until 1925, the Nursing Association did obstetrics, deliveries and pre-and post-care. They included welfare for outlying districts, distributed clothing, food and sometimes fuel for the needy. Olive Shadie used the backseat of her car for equipment and an office.

Whey Dorothy Green came on in 1929, well into the Depression years, the school children had physicals and birth registrations. The children were given a small carton of milk, and that was so good, as well as a spoonful of cod liver oil, which was just awful. I think it was supposed to prevent rickets, but I never knew anyone who had rickets.

Florence Quimby Pitcher was on from 1934 to 1943, and again in later years. In her spare time, she was a scrub nurse for surgeons, when needed in the hospital, and also part-time school nurse. The Association's number of house calls increased each year, and the town added $700 to the coffers. Allura Pitcher substituted, while Florence was doing so much in 1942 due to World War II, and continued with the Association until 1964.

By 1947, the Association had a one-room office on the second floor of the Opera House and the fee for a visit was still 50 cents or at most a dollar. The organization held food sales, donations drives and card games to pay nurses for the increasing number of visits to the elderly and school children, and for allergy shots. A full-time school nurse was hired in 1949. Polio vaccine clinics were held as the vaccine became available in 1957. In 1960, the office expanded to three rooms in the new hospital on Elm Street, and individuals and town organizations donated equipment and money. As many of the aging were eligible for Medicare, Kno-Wal-Lin came into the picture.

Association member Kathleen Gerrish became school nurse in 1967, giving her more time for her increasing duties, including a dental and tonsil clinic, and helping to organize health programs in Lincolnville and Thomaston.

As nursing trends changed through the 1970s, 80s and 90s, the Association had many able leaders: Linda Karod, Carolyn Overlock, Linda Annis, Barbara Forti, Carolyn Overlock Birbank and Gerry Simonton.

Bertha Clason, the Latin teacher at Camden High School for three decades, served as the District Nursing Association secretary and treasurer for 45 years. It was her lifelong dream that the needs of the people in her community would be met.

Presently, Judith Lydon is the Association's director, with a staff of per-diem nurses and assistants. The office is on the top floor of Quarry Hill and serves Camden, Rockport, Hope and Lincolnville.

How this wonderful organization has managed to exist for 100 years with no real funding is a miracle, but I think I know the answer. It is become they had such dedicated workers, officers and Board of Directors who carry on. They charge only if the person can afford it and care for anyone who cannot. Donations are made by generous people who know the Camden Area District Nursing Association is there and needed by many.

They have always been my favorite charity and I have needed them these last two years. I have always known about them and have lived in Camden almost as long as they have. They need your support to continue to fulfill their mission of providing great nursing care to patients in their homes, regardless of ability to pay.

Not every town has "angels" like these. Camden is so fortunate.