Maine Teens Create Gratitude for Maine

The nonprofit, started by three young women during the pandemic, aims to send as many children as possible to summer camp.

FALMOUTH, Maine — The pandemic has caused many of us to turn to new hobbies or try new things to pass the time. A trio of young women from Falmouth discovered a passion for photography and turned it into a business.

Gratitude for Maine strives to send as many Maine children as possible to summer camp. It was created by teenage girls Elle Foley, Sophia Turker and Emma Bowden.

When the pandemic sidelined most summer activities in 2020, young women found themselves without camp and with nothing to do. So they got together a group of friends, contacted a local photographer for lessons, and learned how to capture Maine through a lens.

“I love how you can go at different times of the day and you can get so many different shots of just one thing,” 13-year-old Elle Foley said. “You can get different angles, see if you can capture different lights and diversity. It’s a really fun activity.”

With so much free time that summer, the photos piled up. The trio also realized that while they couldn’t go to summer camp that year, many Maine kids had never been there.

That’s when the teens started Gratitude for Maine. The nonprofit organization sells cards and calendars with their photos, with part of the proceeds helping to send other Maine children to camp.

“When we had to sit down at summer camp, we didn’t realize how lucky we were to be able to have this amazing opportunity,” Foley said. “So when we had to sit down, we got together and said, ‘There are kids in Maine who never had that opportunity. . And we want to give them that.”

The three decided to donate a portion of their profits to the Susan L. Curtis Foundation and her camp at Stoneham. It’s their way of bringing as many kids as possible to Maine to experience the magic of camp. Their first donation was $500 and they expect to donate another $1,000 in June.

“I feel like we like to help out and show people love,” 14-year-old Emma Bowden said. “It just feels good.”

“It’s amazing,” said 13-year-old Sophia Turker. “I just feel like it’s so nice to do something for someone else, and it feels so good after that.”

With school in session, the girls are too busy during the week to tackle orders, so they do it on the weekends. Sometimes it’s a few minutes, other times a few hours. They say it all depends on demand. Foley handles marketing, sales and web design. Bowden is in charge of accounting and operations. Turker is the designer and product manager.

“Our job really depends on all of us communicating, so if I want to do a big bang, I’m like, ‘OK, Sophia, I need you to order the product,'” Foley said. “And then Emma has to prepare and set aside time to make sure she can pack. We pack it all by hand. We have a little note of gratitude and we attach a heart to each package. So it takes two in the middle of it all. And we communicate a lot to make it all happen and work.”

Gratitude for Maine now has a teacher appreciation collection with hand-drawn illustrations submitted by children from across the state. They are looking to expand their website and Maine photo collection by allowing children and teens to submit their own photos.

“Right now it’s all kind of in southern Maine where we live,” Turker said. “But if we submit people from northern Maine, it will show the beauty of all of Maine, not just where we are and we really want to do that.”

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