When Cat Ingraham found out about a Community Heart & Soul project in the Bethel, Maine, area, she jumped at the chance to become the project’s coordinator. She was familiar with Heart & Soul because she lived in Saco, a neighboring town to Biddeford, which completed a project in 2010.
“I have witnessed firsthand the positive impact it has had and continues to have on the area,” she said of Biddeford’s Heart & Soul project.
An outdoor enthusiast who loves skiing, rock-climbing, hiking, and camping, Ingraham was excited to relocate from the coast to the mountainous western part of the state.
“The Bethel area is full of many active, engaged, and community-minded individuals,” said Ingraham. “Western Maine has always felt to me like a place to be. I’m more comfortable in the mountains and woods than in any city. And I love how much people care about the area, each other, and working together.”
Ingraham is coordinating Mahoosuc Heart & Soul, a multi-town project that includes Bethel (pop. 2,600), Newry (pop. 329), Greenwood (pop. 830), and Woodstock (pop. 1,300).
She describes herself as a “multi-generational Mainer.” She grew up in the Biddeford-Saco area where her father owns a law firm and her mother was a teacher. Her parents also own a campground and RV park.
“My parents’ careers and choices to involve their children in them gave me the opportunity to grow up with the accountability and responsibility of a small business owner,” she said.
They also modeled volunteerism and community involvement, qualities that shaped her own life choices.
“Being an active member of a local community has always been central to self-identification for me as a small cog in a larger mechanism,” Ingraham said. “By volunteering I have found like-minded individuals who share some of my vision for the future. I have also found that the more you put into something, generally, the more you get out of the experience. So, if you want to be part of a community, it makes sense to put yourself out there.”
She and her husband founded Lone Pine Brewing Co. in Portland, turning a longtime microbrewing hobby into a for-profit business. Now that the business is up and running, she has turned her focus to community organization and long-range planning.
She is looking forward to learning more about her new neighbors throughout the Mahoosuc Heart & Soul communities as they craft a plan for the future that takes into account what matters most to them.
“So much of comprehensive town and regional planning happens behind closed doors in meetings where not everyone is involved or has a say in the matter,” Ingraham said. “I think for many people it’s not interesting because they do not take part in it. By reaching out into the community and speaking to people face-to-face, it makes the whole concept friendlier and personal.”