Shaker Village vandalism repair brings out community spirit

Norris Chairman volunteers for work detail

The town of New Gloucester Maine is home to the last living, working Shaker community, the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village. The Shakers are a fascinating communal culture that believes in hard work and dedication to community. They believe in helping one another out.

In October of 2018, the Portland Press Herald reported the Village suffered some vandalism when its hayfield was discovered to have been torn up by uncaught perpetrators slamming the gas and spinning donuts in the field, cutting deep ruts and displacing large chunks of living sod.

Michael Graham is the Director of The Shaker Museum. By his own admission, he also wears many hats around the Shaker Village and it was he who found the vandalized field.

“When I discovered the vandalism, my stomach sank.  I cut the Shakers’ hay crop twice each season, and I knew what the damage meant in terms of the immediate work that needed to be done,” Graham said, noting that the work had to be done by hand in order to carefully and precisely replace the large chunks of sod displaced by the vehicle tires. “We are small-staffed here, and I knew that I would be likely working alone for probably as many as 2 weeks to get the repairs made before winter, in order that the hayfield be healing by the time the next hay crop came around in June.”

However, word of the vandalism soon spread and it soon more media outlets were picking up the story.

“I have to tell you, that at first, I felt overwhelmed by the extent of the damage and the amount of work,” Graham said. “When the story hit the news, we were surprised.  Then, one after another, all the Maine news stations came to report, as well as the Lewiston Sun Journal and the Portland Press Herald.  The support we received from this and through Facebook was staggering.”

Seeing an opportunity to be true to the Shaker core beliefs in communal support of one another, a community work day was organized, and a general invitation was issued to anyone who wanted to come by and volunteer their time to help repair the damage.

Norris Co-Founder and Chairman of the Board, Harty Norris was one such volunteer.Norris Inc

The Press Herald again covered that very successful day of community spirit.

Jamie Ribisi-Braley is the President of the Friends of the Shakers, a support organization for the Maine Shakers. The Friends organization runs a website and Facebook page for the historic group of religious devotees and plans community volunteer days where folks wishing to help out can lend a hand with chores. Ribisi-Braley said the unselfish outpouring of volunteers to help repair the damaged hayfield was humbling.

“We are so completely moved by all of the volunteers that came out to help Shaker Village last month,” Ribisi-Braley said. “We are still a bit in shock at all of the kindness.”

Norris said though the day was foggy, wet, and cold, the work was brisk and organized and the community spirit made for a quick job.

“My son in law myself along with about fifty other people volunteered.  The morning broke foggy, cold, and wet. We were given a short introduction as to how to rake, shovel, and stomp the ruts down and fill the tire marks,” Norris said. “The Shakers also enlisted local contractors who provided a bobcat with treads and a tractor to spread additional soil over the damaged areas. After several hours the fields were made usable again.”

Norris said the community spirit extended to a post-work communal meal donated by an area eatery.

“A local restaurant provided a field-luncheon sandwich buffet,” Norris said. “Lots of good company and good fun–but wet–work.”

Graham said the feeling of community was a powerful presence during the reconstruction work. Shaker Village

“Communal life is core to Shaker life and has been since the late 1700s. People helping people is the basis of their religious vocation. And, based upon the turnout and demographics of the group, the community coming together is also important to lots of people,” Graham said. “The Shakers and the staff were deeply moved, grateful, and humbled to see and experience the tremendous outpouring of concern, support, and action taken in the wake of the vandalism to Shaker Village.

Graham also was touched by not just the volunteers who offered their time, but also those product and service providers who donated hard resources.

“I’d also like you to know that in addition to the volunteers including Harty Norris, we were also supported by several local businesses and organizations,” Graham said, listing off those who donated. “Cyndi’s Dockside and the Poland Spring Resort (who generously fed all of the volunteers), G.A. Downing (provided a portable hand-washing sink and toilet for workers), Wilkinson Excavation (provided and operated a Bobcat and donated the topsoil), the Gray ATV Club’s Vice President helped to manage work crews and deliver topsoil to work sites, and the Friends of the Shakers provided support, supervision, and tremendous assistance.”


What are the Shakers All About?

From the Maine Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village Website:

“Established in 1783, Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in New Gloucester is home to the only active Shaker Community in the world today. Situated on 1,800 acres of farm and forest land with seventeen historic structures from the 1780s through the 1950s, the Village continues to be a place where, we, the Shakers, live, work, and worship. “Put your hands to work, and give your hearts to God” continues to be our guiding principle, as expressed by our leader Mother Ann Lee more than 230 years ago.

Best-known today for popular styles of 19th-century furniture and crafts, the Shaker legacy includes many achievements in social reform, agriculture, technology, and innovation. The flat broom, the circular saw blade, the spring clothespin, chair tilter buttons, and the paper seed envelope are all among a long list of Shaker inventions. We welcome visitors to experience parts of our history and on-going heritage through our museum, research library, traditional craft workshops, concerts, educational programs, membership support group, and our Sunday worship services.”


What is Norris All About?

Norris, Inc.—a South Portland, Maine-based life-safety and security systems integrator with satellite offices in Bangor, Maine; Lee, New Hampshire; and Burlington, Vermont—was founded nearly 40 years ago by two brothers, Brad and Harty Norris. The brothers remain on the board of directors today and continue to help steer the enterprise toward its goal of advancing life-safety, security, and communications while striving to grow in its status as Northern New England’s leading systems integrator. Norris provides fully integrated life-safety and security solutions, comprising disparate systems including fire alarm, intrusion detection, access control, video surveillance, emergency notification, and communications.