Showing posts with label welcome. Show all posts
Showing posts with label welcome. Show all posts

Friday, June 28, 2024

Raymond 'Lavender Lady' designs new garden to raise awareness for domestic violence in Maine

By Kendra Raymond

They say it takes “blood, sweat, and tears” to get through certain projects. While for most, this idiom is merely a cliché, for “Lavender Lady” Jenny McCarthy of Raymond, the accomplishment hits closer to home.

An inspirational message rock is highlighted
in front of a lavender plant at Jenny
McCarthy's Domestic Violence Awareness
Garden in Raymond.
For the past three years, McCarthy has spent countless hours preparing, designing, and implementing a domestic violence awareness garden at her Raymond home. As a domestic violence survivor, McCarthy hopes to provide a peaceful, safe, and serene space for anyone to enjoy some quiet time to rest or take in the sweet fragrances of the garden.

McCarthy moved to Raymond in 2020 under the address protection program so she could safely rebuild her life. She is now safe and a veteran of the program.

“I didn’t know anyone, I had no local friends, and I wondered what I could do with my time,” said McCarthy. “What can I do to help the community?”

The garden project essentially sprouted as McCarthy cleared copious amounts of invasive bittersweet from her overgrown property. Admittedly, she knew nothing about gardening or plants at the onset of the project and didn’t realize what she was getting into. McCarthy noticed that the soil was dry and sandy and started researching plants that would grow in those growing conditions.

“I started looking into lavender and found out it loves sand. I also connected with its beauty and relaxing properties,” she said.

McCarthy said that her Raymond Cape neighbors would often stop to offer compliments or support on her progress with the garden spot.

“It was sweet to know I was in a community. They noticed what I was doing and were kind and made me feel comfortable – it was an awesome feeling,” she said.

Lavender is a flowering member of the mint family. It is named after the Latin word “lavare,” meaning “to wash,” and has been used as aromatherapy, culinary settings, medicinal properties, as an ornamental plant, and extensively in soaps, potpourri, and floral arrangements.

“I want the garden to be a calming place to share with everyone, not just for me. People can feel comfortable just stopping by to sit on the purple bench and chairs. They don’t even have to talk to me. I want people to know they can just take a moment here. Anyone can relax, take in the lavender, or just be. I definitely want people to feel welcome,” said McCarthy.

She shared this sentiment on a neighborhood social media page: “My DV dedication lavender garden, three years growing and adding new ideas each year. The English lavender is almost ready to flower, and it smells amazing. This is why I work so hard outside; In memory of those taken too soon and dedicated to all survivors of domestic violence. Blood, sweat, and tears. It’s all worth it.”

Visitors to the garden can expect to see many varieties of lavender plants, ornamental grasses, other blue- and purple-colored plants and flowers, beautiful rocks painted with notes of inspiration, and a purple light which signifies DV awareness.

“The light shines every night, getting its power from the sun,” McCarthy said.

The light is tangentially related to McCarthy’s commitment to being kind to others and sharing her beautiful, safe space.

“I’d like to continue to give back as much as possible. Any way the lavender can help,” she said.

McCarthy is beginning to realize that the end of each season yields a hearty crop of lavender, which provides a multitude of uses. She is seeking some additional support and skills from our community, however. McCarthy said that she honestly has no idea what to do with the stalks that easily dry after the growing season ends. She is seeking the help of anyone with crafting or floral experience that can do something useful with the trimmings.

“I would love to see something made with the lavender,” she said,” even something that could be a gift to the DV shelter.” Dried sprays, scented pillows, or something even more creative that could be sold as a fundraiser for DV awareness would be beneficial. This could serve as a great community service project for likeminded youth, scouts, or retirees.”

According to the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence (MCEDV), in 2022, domestic violence comprised 30 percent of the total assaults reported to law enforcement in Maine. Nationally, more than 90 percent of relationship violence that is instrumental in the maintenance of control, the more systematic, persistent, and injurious type of violence, is perpetrated by men. Globally, as many as 38 percent of all murders of women are committed by intimate partners.

Rebecca Hobbs, Co-executive Director of Through These Doors, a Cumberland County DV Resource Center, said that she is keenly aware of McCarthy’s gardening efforts.

“Jenny‘s DV dedication garden is in honor of and solidarity with people affected by DV. It is an act of generosity and love. It is one example of Jenny‘s openness to sharing her hard -won wisdom with others in an effort to make the world a better place,” said Hobbs.

McCarthy’s inspiration is in high demand. She’s been interviewed by Maine Public Radio to speak about electronic monitoring and domestic violence. Just this week, McCarthy spoke to Waterville law enforcement group as part of a training program.

She has big plans and hopes to expand the garden to engulf her entire yard, which will make the bees very happy and provide larger walking and seating areas. She’s also made a late-season project last year of enlarging her driveway to accommodate visitor’s vehicles.

Maine author and poet May Sarton once said, “Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.” Jenny McCarthy certainly embodies that mantra with her courage, dignity, and tenacity. She wears a “Warrior” tattoo on her forearm, perhaps a quiet reminder of her journey, a source of strength, or something else that only she understands.

“It’s about community; It’s not just about me giving back. I feel like there’s a bigger purpose here, said McCarthy.

McCarthy extends an open invitation to our community to visit her DV Awareness Garden, located at 27 Cape Road in Raymond.

To learn more about Through These Doors on their website: or call their 24-Hour Helpline (free & confidential) at 1-800-537-6066 or the Statewide Domestic Abuse Hotline can be reached at 1 866-834-HELP 24 hours a day. <

Friday, June 30, 2023

Raymond couple welcome Darfur immigrants for July 4th celebration

By Nicole Levine

During the summer, Raymond residents Roberta “Bobbie” Gordon and her husband George, welcome immigrants from Darfur, now living in Maine, to their home for their annual 4th of July celebration.

George Gordon of Raymond, left, and his
wife, Roberta 'Bobbie' Gordon, right, visit
with El-Fadel Arbab, who emigrated to
Maine in 2004 from Sudan. Every year
the Gordons welcome immigrants from
the Darfur region of Sudan to their home
for a 4th of July Celebration.
This event originally began with 45 people and has now grown to about 200. This will be the first year returning to this celebration since 2019, when it was indefinitely postponed due to the pandemic. Bobbie and George provide their guests with traditional 4th of July barbecue food, books and toys for the children, and a place to gather on the holiday for all Darfurians. The people from Darfur bring side dishes and desserts that originate from their country. Together they play games to help learn English and interact in an engaging group setting.

One year during a previous 4th of July celebration, a man sitting across from Bobbie stared at her with a confused look on his face. He then asked her “Why are you doing this?” He was confused about how somebody could give themselves so wholeheartedly over to another culture and help them while wanting absolutely nothing in return.

To that Bobbie responded, “It’s from the heart. This is what's in us and this is what we want to do, and we are happy to do it.”

The annual gathering first began in 2008 when Bobbie retired, and she was looking for opportunities to fill her time. Searching for volunteer positions, she gravitated toward the community of immigrants from Darfur, who were now living in Portland.

She and another colleague decided to create a program to help these Darfur immigrants become acclimated to the area, learn to speak English, and connect with fellow Mainers. They were originally funded by the National Council of Jewish Women.

Through this program, they spoke locally to different groups, spreading awareness, and hoping to raise funds to help this cause. Through their efforts, they also generated support and resources, enabling them to acquire and ship stoves powered by the sun to Chad, where many Darfurians were living during ongoing violence in Sudan. By eliminating the need to search for firewood, the lives of many women were protected from recurring violent encounters in the region.

During her time organizing and running this program, Bobbie met El-Fadel Arbab, who immigrated from

Sudan in 2004.

“We got right into the core of what his journey was all about,” she said. They would spend hours together where Bobbie would mentor El-Fadel, to help him learn English.

Following their time together, El-Fadel would not accept a ride home, but instead walked, so he was able to absorb what they had discussed, and to clear his head of any trauma that was discussed.

El-Fadel is the Community Outreach Coordinator of an organization called the Fur Cultural Revival. He gives speeches and advocates to end violence in Sudan, including several schools, the STAND (Students Take Action Now) Conference, the Holocaust Survivors Conference, and many more organizations.

His goal is to educate people and create a community that works towards ending the violence in Sudan.

“We the people have the power,” he said, explaining how it is up to the people to drive desired change themselves.

Like many of the lives Bobbie and George have touched, the 4th of July holds a special place in El-Fadel’s heart. “This was a golden opportunity for us,” he said, when referring to the gatherings hosted by the Gordons.

El-Fadel looks to the 4th of July to honor the people who have lost their lives for the freedom that we have today in America.

“I am hoping and praying that one day this kind of freedom will come to my people,” he said.

Immigrating to a new country is often an extremely difficult and harrowing journey and support from

locals is what helps connect and integrate people to become one community.

“It’s really [through] the Maine community that we are able to get support and help,” says El-Fadel, giving credit to the Mainers who have contributed, and emphasizing the importance of citizens helping one another.

By holding this 4th of July Celebration, Bobbie Gordon said she’s able to celebrate this great American tradition, and to include people of other cultures who can also now appreciate the freedom that we have in the United States.

Volunteering to tutor or mentor immigrants in need of help, is a great beginning to build and become one community, she said.

For further information about how to become involved in volunteering to help immigrants, please contact Bobbie Gordon by sending an email to <