Meet MOFGA Volunteer Jenny Jacques
By Betsy Garrold
Photo credit: Jenny Jacques
Jenny Jacques really "gets" the idea of community: how to build one, how to maintain one, how to be a part of one. Jacques volunteers as the coordinator for the west access road camping area at MOFGA’s Common Ground Country Fair and as the sign painting coordinator for the fairgrounds, and has been gathering folks around her all her life. Ten years ago, as a young single mother, she coordinated the building of her Itty Bitty Homestead by gathering a community of sharers and workers in her chosen hometown of Orland and from around the state. In the 20 years since getting her degree in education from the University of Maine Farmington, she has worked as a server at Arborvine in Blue Hill, an English as a second language (ESL) teacher, and a self-proclaimed adventure nanny. She is currently starting an outdoor experience nursery school for children 3 months to 6 years. As she says, this Itty Bitty Forest School will be for itty bitty people in an itty bitty building on the Itty Bitty Homestead.
Her time volunteering at the Fair has been varied. She loves the idea of exchanging volunteer labor for admission, camping and a hot meal, and started volunteering at the Fair in the early 2000s. Her first shifts were at the volunteer sign-up booth, where she would work the early time slots so that she and her family had the rest of the day to enjoy the event. During this time, she built a community of five or six other young mothers with babies. Seeing them once a year at the Fair became a highlight of her family's year. "I met some of my best friends at the fair," Jacques says.
Her two daughters — Asha, a young adult now living near Philadelphia, and Ari, a teenager who lives at home and works at Blue-Zee Farm in Penobscot — will both volunteer at the 2023 Fair as face painters in the Children’s Area. And their little brother, George, has been welcomed with open arms by the Fair community. The apples did not fall far from the tree.
Since a lot of the coordination for Jacques’ two areas of responsibility happen before the Fair, she spends the week prior to the event working and socializing with other pre-Fair volunteers. "Being on the Fair planning committee is fun because you get to look at various areas and see what can be done to improve them for the fairgoers," says Jacques.
Caitlyn Barker, community engagement coordinator for MOFGA, says of Jacques: "Jenny is a joy to work with and brings so much enthusiasm and talent to her role at the Fair. I'm so thankful that she has made supporting MOFGA such an important tradition in her family for close to two decades and consider her a valued part of our community!"
As if to highlight exactly how much the building of community connections means to Jacques, when asked what her favorite part of the Fair is she replied, "I love the Common Kitchen, how it uses everyone's favorite recipes, cooks them to perfection and then all the volunteers get to sit down together at what is essentially a big community supper. That alone makes the four hours of volunteer work worthwhile."