‘Not every town has angels like these. Camden is so fortunate’

Camden dedicates 2020 Town Report to Camden Area District Nursing

Thu, 07/09/2020 - 3:00pm

    CAMDEN — At their regularly scheduled July 7 meeting, Camden Select Board members officially dedicated this year’s town report to Camden Area District Nursing Association, a team of caring nurses and citizens who have been helping area residents for the past 100 years.

    2020 marks the 100th anniversary of Camden District Nursing, and the town commemorated in the report, “the compassion women who initially formed it, and the countless volunteers, donors, and dedicated nurses who have sustained it for the past 100 years.”

    Mary Annis had presided over the first meeting of the Camden Area District Nursing, held October 10, 1920, at the YMCA on Chestnut Street.


    The Town of Camden is pleased to dedicate the annual report in honor of the 100th year of the Camden Area District Nursing Association. 

    Camden has always been blessed with many residents and visitors who are generous with their time, ideas, and money. Often, these individuals join forces to form organizations which continue for a long time, but seldom is a community so fortunate to have an organization that lasts so long nor contributes so much as the Camden Area District Nursing Association.  

    The mission of CADNA is simple and important. They work to provide nursing care to residents in their own homes, regardless of their ability to pay. There are many Camden residents who continue to fall through the cracks of our healthcare system and the registered nurses employed by the organization provide home visits, medication management, coordination with family members and physicians, wellness checks, flu shots, and a variety of medical equipment and devices.  

    Many of the services are little different now than when the organization began, but the mission of helping residents with medical and health needs that aren’t being met elsewhere has been the same for a century. The town of Camden is grateful for the initial vision and for the generations of public service that have followed as countless volunteers, donors, and dedicated employees have quietly fulfilled the mission and touched thousands of lives.   

    Barbara Dyer, another Camden resident whose contributions to the town are innumerable, reminds us of the history of the organizations and a glimpse of what she remembers firsthand:   

    By Barbara F. Dyer

    On October 10, 1920, a thoughtful, caring group of ladies met at the YMCA, under the leadership of Miss Mary Annis. Their purpose was to a have a Public Health Nurse for anyone, who need their kin services. Although their history is long and services varied, we should appreciate the ladies who started it: Mrs. J.F. Hooper, Miss Emily Jaegels, Miss Mary Bartlett, Mrs. J.F. Knowlton, Mrs. E.N. Duffy, Miss Alice Messinger, Mrs.T.G. Ritterbush and Miss Emma Halford. The first nurse, Helen Cobb, was hired on February 1, 1921 for $100 per month. They chose not to be under the jurisdiction of the Red Cross or Knox County Health Association but did attend public meetings in Rockland. As Camden did not have a hospital until 1925, the District Nurse did obstetrics, deliveries, pre and post, as well as instructions for care. 

    The District Nurses during these years included Madolin Richards, Frances (Grassrow) Thomas. Miss Rose Blake, and Miss Olive Shadie. They included welfare for outlying districts, distributed clothing, food and sometime fuel for the needy. Miss Shadie used the backseat of her car for equipment and an office. Then Miss Mildred Chandler was next, assisted by Louise Ogier. 

    When Dorothy (Dolly) Green came on in 1929, when we were well into the Depression years. I remember that all the school children had a yearly check on their eyes, ear, nose, teeth, tonsils, physicals and birth registration. All were given a small carton of milk and that was so good, as well as a spoonful of cod liver oil, which was just awful. I think it was supposed to prevent rickets, but I never knew anyone who had rickets.  

    Mrs. Florence Quimby Pitcher was on from 1934 to 1943 (and again in later years). In her spare time, she was made available as a scrub nurse for surgeons, when needed in the hospital. Their number of house calls increased each year and she was also a part time school nurse. That was when the town added $700 to the coffers. Allura Pitcher substituted for the four months that Florence was doing so much in 1942, due to World War 2, and had to remain as school nurse. Allura Pitcher continued as District Nurse until 1964. 

    By 1947 the District Nurse actually had a one room office on the second floor of the Opera House and the fee for a visit was still fifty cents, or a the most one dollar.

    They held food sales, donation drives and card games to make money for nurses to make the increasing number of visits to the elderly, school children and were now giving allergy shots.

    A full time school nurse was hired in 1949, as the District visits grew by leaps and bounds. In 1960, they were given a three room office in the new hospital on Elm Street and individuals and town organizations donated equipment and money. Many of the aging were eligible for Medicare and Kno-Wal-Lin came into the picture. Salk vaccine became available in 1957, so Polio clinics were held. 

    Kathleen Gerrish became school nurse in 1967, that gave the District Nurse more time for all her duties that kept increasing and a dental clinic and tonsil clinic. She also spent time in Thomaston and Lincolnville helping to organize health programs. 

    Nursing trends changed again and in 1974 Linda Karod came on.

    The District Nurse took care of patients discharged from the hospital, helping families and patients to be cared for at home.

    Three years later Carolyn Overlock’s duties expanded to preventative health care, as well as Linda B. Annis continued in district nursing and the District Nurses were unable to preventative health care, as well. Linda B. Annis continued in district nursing and the District Nurses were unable to continue with Medicare and Medicaid nursing calls as Kno-Wal-Lin were handling them. So new services were being explored.

    In 1989, Barbara Forti became the District Nurse, continuing the vital home health care needs.

    In 1992 Carolyn Overlock Birbank returned to be full time District Nurse and Gerry Simonton has assisted on a part time basis to keep up with the home care visits.

    We also had the services of Anne Feeney, Elizabeth Doyle, Cathy Gottshalk, Donna Johnson, Gerry Simonton, and Fran Finn. 

    Also, our Latin Teacher for three generations at Camden High School, Bertha Clason, spent many years of dedication to the Association as Secretary and Treasurer for 45 years, but also it was her lifelong dream that needs of the people in her community would be met.  

    Presently, Judith Lydon is the Nursing Director, with per diem nurses and assistants.

    Their office is on the top floor of Quarry Hill, serving Camden, Rockport, Lincolnville and Hope. How this wonderful organization has managed to exist for 100 years with no real funding is a miracle, but I think I know the answer.

    It is because they had such dedicated workers, officers and Board of Directors who carry on. They charge only if the person can afford it and care for anyone who cannot.

    Donations are made by generous people, who know the Camden Area District Nursing Association is there and needed, by many, often. 

    They have always been my favorite charity and I have needed them the last two years. I have always known about them and have lived in Camden almost as long as they have.

    They need your support to continue to fulfill their mission of providing great nursing care to patients in their homes, regardless of ability to pay.  

    Not every town has “angels” like these. Camden is so fortunate. 

    Barbara F. Dyer 
    Town Historian