BANGOR – Newspapers crinkled on a recent fall morning, the better to be stuffed into the legs of sweat pants and the arms of sweat shirts.
It was the annual beginning of life for some merry scarecrows at Phillips-Strickland House, crafted by residents under the guidance of volunteer Lorilyn Lucy.
By late October, the scarecrows have occupied several nooks at the residential care facility at 21 Boyd St., each morning finding the men and women on the lookout for which character may have been quietly moved overnight by staff.
A few days more, and each scarecrow will be off to a new home after being sold during Phillips-Strickland’s annual craft fair Saturday, Nov. 6. Proceeds will benefit special activities for the 47 residents, such as monthly supper outings and an annual bus trip.
The fair will occupy several rooms in the modern facility, completed in 1977, but the nonprofit home has its roots in the Home for Aged Women, begun by Mary Phillips in the late 1800s.
“Mary went to the Legislature in 1882 and asked for the authority to open the home for women,” said Nelson Durgin, executive director of Phillips-Strickland.
Phillips, who didn’t even have the right to vote, made the trip to Augusta in February. She was successful, and some years later Bangor businessman Lysander Strickland followed suit, starting the Home for Aged Men. Both homes had endowments to help ensure that indigent residents were included.
The facilities merged in 1973 to form Phillips-Strickland, named for the founders, with a new building to follow.
In 1996, resident Eugenia Witham, who lived in the same room once occupied by her mother, wrote up some of the history of the home with the help of Martha Carey, last original resident still living:
“‘On Jan. 28, 1977, the Board of Directors moved 18 of us women from the Home for Aged Women to our new home. The Phillips-Strickland House is a beautiful home with all the rooms so nicely planned. There is always a nice attitude… Jan. 29th they moved 12 men from the Home for Aged Men, it made 30 residents when we opened.”
Witham added, “Many of the men walked down … they had been able to follow, board by board, the building of what was to be their new home. Mr. Gardner walked over with a violin in each hand!”
In the decades since, the organization has evolved with the times to serve women and men whose needs are greater than ever before.
Medical regulations which took effect in 1994, known as Med ’94, eliminated some 1,000 nursing home beds in the state, Durgin pointed out. Requirements for admission to nursing homes became stricter, even as the population was aging. That left many of the facilities previously known as boarding homes needing to provide more assistance and actual health care.
Demographically, Durgin explained, “Maine is the oldest state in the country, and the northern six counties are the oldest in the state. There are a lot of housing needs that haven’t been answered.”
Services at Phillips-Strickland include three meals a day in the dining room; 24-hour staff including nurses; laundry; and assistance with medications, bathing and dressing.
Some of the residents are private pay, but even more are covered by MaineCare, formerly Medicaid, Durgin said. It’s common knowledge that MaineCare does not reimburse for the full cost of care, and further, it pays based on two people to a room. Phillips-Strickland’s accommodations are private rooms, so reimbursement from the state is less than it would be otherwise.
The facility retains a healthy endowment, Durgin said, but also depends on an annual appeal to the community as well as fundraisers such as the fall golf tournament and the dinner dance in the spring.
Six years ago, the organization opened the adjoining Boyd Place, a separate facility with 33 apartments for more independent seniors. Boyd Place is private pay only and fully self-supporting.
The two facilities do share activities, including weekly nondenominational services and Catholic Communion.
Bangor Public Library stocks the library, Phillips-Strickland corporators have a visitors program, and the Good Neighbors Program pairs each resident with a staff member to help nurture that connection with the community.
So does the annual craft fair, Nickerson explained, which will offer lots of knit crafts, afghans, mittens, dishcloths, painted trinket boxes, cookie mixes, sock snowmen, knick-knacks, jewelry, antiques and collectibles, used books, baked goods, a cafe, a raffled handmade quilt and holiday items such as decoupaged plates.
“And Karen made bread-and-butter pickles with the residents,” Nickerson added. The residents actually work on items for the fair all year long.
This year, several outside vendors have been invited to participate as well: Tansy’s Best Goat Soap, Scent Sations, Tastefully Simple, Southwestah Beads, Sewlong Designs and Mary Kay Products.
The fair brings in funds for activities, but just as importantly, it gives residents the chance to show off a special facility with a one-of-a-kind history.
Phillips-Strickland will hold its fall fair 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4, at 21 Boyd St.