By John Engelbert, Territory Manager (ME)
It is so very wonderful to work for a company such as GMCR (Green Mountain Coffee) and be given the time and resources to serve others. We call our volunteer program CAFEsm (Community Action for Employees) where all of our full-time employees get 52 hours of paid time to volunteer in their community.
Project Healing Waters, a national organization, has found a unique way to give to veterans. Many of those who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in Vietnam, experienced varying degrees of trauma and injury. Personally, I felt the need to give back to those who have served our country and have been injured or disabled in combat. Project Healing Waters teaches veterans fly fishing, providing a form of healing recreation and camaraderie in the serene setting of the woods of Maine. Forest Lodge is located on Maine’s Rapid River, the location of Louise Dickenson Rich’s book, We Took to the Woods. It is deep in the woods, 17 miles from the nearest paved road, and is off the grid, with solar power and propane for lighting and cooking.
I know, I got stuck fishing as my choice of CAFE time (yeah, boo-hoo John), but ended up getting far more than I bargained for. Initially, I was only prepared to serve coffee, but after meeting Joe Taylor, an active duty injured soldier, my plans changed. Joe never had an opportunity to fly fish before. He had a quick lesson earlier that morning from the resident guide, so I asked him if he’d like to come out with me and try a few casts before lunch. He said he “sucked” at fly fishing and didn’t think he would do well, but I encouraged him to just enjoy the pristine setting and not worry too much about the results. (After all I myself am just a “super novice”). We walked down the trail to the river and practiced nymphing (a subsurface fly fishing technique) for a little while. A short time later, on his very first cast with a nymph, Joe caught, netted and then released a beautiful native brook trout. Joe was ecstatic! The joy on his face and in his eyes spoke volumes about the experience. Seeing him this happy made my day and my week. It was truly a healing experience both for him and for me.
The folks at Project Healing Waters and Forest Lodge’s host Aldro French were grateful for our donation of delicious, fresh brewed Nantucket Blend and breakfast. It was a challenge to brew coffee in the backwoods, but thankfully we had a generator so we could drink good, hot coffee each day.
I am very grateful to serve and give great thanks to GMCR for allowing employees time to give as a way of expressing our thanks to our communities. I am also thankful to Aldro French, a veteran himself, who along with his staff has made this lodge available for this wonderful event, sacrificing their own gain for the good of others.
For those interested in learning more about Project Healing Waters, here’s a very poignant piece from ESPN’s Outside The Lines program from February 2009 that features the personal impact of war and a way to help people through the medium of fly fishing.
You can read more about the Forest Lodge, Healing Waters event in our local paper, Lewsiton Sun Journal