This month marks the one-year anniversary of when Pine Tree Legal Assistance shifted to a ‘work from home’ environment in response to the pandemic. However, it wasn’t until I looked back at old emails that I realized that most of this transition happened over 15 workdays, starting from my first email referencing coronavirus on February 27 until March 16 when we closed our offices to the public and encouraged folks to begin working from home.  

There was no existing blueprint for how to do this; our success is a tribute to the incredible commitment of staff at a time when all of them already had full-time jobs. Our IT staff mobilized to review and adapt our computer and phone systems to function away from the office, while others quickly began tracking down and ordering protective gear and equipment (including a LOT of hand sanitizer) for local offices. We shifted our longstanding intake system out of six local offices and into 12+ home locations, allowing us to continue providing assistance to Mainers desperate for answers during these unprecedented times. 

A team approach kept agency partners informed about pending changes to our operations, and we expanded phone hours to compensate for the loss of walk-in service.  What began as a suggestion, quickly became a requirement for all staff to work from home, except for designated essential workers in each office willing to handle mail and keep program systems operational for the rest of us. It took three months before some restoration of staff in local offices (under strict COVID protection policies) was possible. 

There was no time to gather as a program to brainstorm ideas and solutions, to provide detailed trainings or coordinate in-person check-ins and reassurance. It would have been understandable if people stepped away to cope with their own and family member stressors. Instead, attorneys and paralegals rose to the new challenges and continued to provide help to low-income Mainers. We rolled up our sleeves and got to work stopping illegal lockouts, securing protection from abuse, providing counsel and advice to people on old and new issues such as the IRS Stimulus checks, unemployment comp benefits. We all pitched-in creating and posting client ed updates specific to COVID-19 on our websites. Our administrative staff both helped with program wide changes and continued work behind the scenes on old and new administrative requirements. Amidst the uncertainty and difficulty, we saw some notable bright spots including the onboarding of new staff, virtual office lunches, and plenty of sharing of photos of pets in our new work from home set ups. 

We are getting closer to that moment when Pine Tree Legal Assistance can once again return to “normal,” with the assurance that we will continue to fight for our clients, despite the challenges we may continue to face. And in the meantime, the snow has almost disappeared, bulbs are pushing up leaves in my garden, and red-winged blackbirds and spring warblers have arrived – all promising signs of better times to come. 

-Nan Heald, Executive Director 

Name: Helen Meyer, Development Director 

Number of Years at Pine Tree: 13 

Where is your favorite place in Maine? I have so many... but one is Crescent Beach. 

What are some hobbies you enjoy outside of work? Walking in the woods, sewing, spending time with my family and dog. 

What is your favorite memory from working at Pine Tree? I have so many fond memories at Pine Tree, one of my tops is bonding with staff at our annual retreats while one person (I won't say who) regales us with a rendition of "The eve of destruction" 

Why did you want to work at Pine Tree? I feel so passionately about the mission. I want to be part of something that breaks down barriers for people who need help, especially families in poverty, people with disabilities, and people who have had their rights trampled time and time again.  

What is your favorite board game? RISK! 

Tell us about your pet(s)! I have a 9 year mini labradoodle named Oscar Meyer and he has been my constant companion throughout the pandemic. He is a sweet and lovable snugglepup. ♥ 

Moosey is an adorable stuffed animal who travels our great state and visits interesting places. Can you guess where Moosey was this month? Check out our Facebook page for more pictures and fascinating facts from Moosey’s adventures. 
In the 1940s, Liberty Ships were built in this town. Moosey visited the Liberty Ship Memorial which commemorates the estimated 30,000 people, many of them women, who worked building liberty ships from 1941-1945.  
Did you know, the local housing authority was established in the 1940s to provide housing for the numerous families that were moving into the area to work in the defense war effort industry? 
Need another hint? This town is one of the top 10 most competitive housing markets in the United States. It is the only town in New England to be on the Redfin’s list.   
What town did Moosey adventure to this month?
Check out our Facebook page for more updates on Moosey throughout the month!
Help empower others by sharing resources from our website and Facebook. Join us every Tuesday and help spread the word about our new weekly Eviction Information Sessions
Join our community of attorneys and advocates working to increase access to justice for low-income Mainers! Learn more about volunteer opportunities.
Your generous gifts make our work possible. Consider making a donation to Pine Tree.

Members of the Maine Bar should instead donate to the Campaign for Justice.
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Copyright © 2021, Pine Tree Legal Assistance, All rights reserved.

Pine Tree Legal Assistance is a non-profit, is a 501(c)(3) organization incorporated on June 14, 1966. Our tax ID number is 01-02 79387. Pine Tree Legal Assistance is funded in part by the Legal Services Corporation (“LSC”). As a condition of the funding received from LSC, Pine Tree Legal Assistance is restricted in certain activities in all of its legal work, including work supported by other funding sources. Pine Tree Legal Assistance may not expend any funds for any activity prohibited by the Legal Services Corporation Act, 42 U.S.C §2996 et. seq. or by Public Law 104-134. Public Law 104—234 §504(d) required that notice of these restrictions be given to all funders or programs funded by the Legal Services Corporation. For a copy of these laws or any further information, please contact: Executive Director, Pine Tree Legal Assistance, PO Box 547, Portland, Maine 04112; Tel. 207-774-4753.