About Women for Healthy Rural LivingOur goal is to provide an equitable and accessible path to health and wellness.
Women for Healthy Rural Living (WHRL) is a 501(c)3 non-profit.
To advance and promote the health and well-being of the woman, her family, her community, and the planet.
Our vision is a more just community where all women are empowered to achieve optimum wellness—physical, emotional, social, and spiritual wellness.
We are guided by the following core values:
EQUITY- We value inclusion and belonging and embrace our community’s diversity. We actively seek to understand and challenge systems of inequity.
COMMUNITY- We value collaboration, building relationships, and sharing resources– guided by kindness and compassion.
INTEGRITY- Our work is driven by the expectation of honesty, principled action, and earned trust.
WHRL was founded in 2004 by nurse practitioner Christine Kuhni and opened in 2005. Initially intended as a health lending library, the activities quickly evolved to include a community-driven agenda, prioritizing community needs.
Research shows that women are the primary healthcare consumers for their families. By targeting our message to women, we hope to impact the health and wellness of the entire family and community.
Our organization takes a preventative approach to the many health issues and disparities in western Washington County. Our goal is to provide an equitable and accessible path to health and wellness. We address the foundational elements of health as they pertain to the unique needs of our Downeast neighbors. In particular, WHRL focuses on human wholeness, addressing not only physical wellness but emotional, social, and spiritual health. Priority areas include: 1) creating greater food security and improving nutrition, 2) providing more opportunities for physical activity, 3) building community connections, and 4) affording access to nature. Our programs are open to all.
WHRL Board Meeting During COVID
Chris Kuhni is a retired Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner. In 2004, Chris founded Women for Healthy Rural Living; she has served as executive director ever since. She received the “Inspirations Award” from the National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health and the “Nurse Practitioner Advocate Award” from the Maine Association of Nurse Practitioners; both awards for establishing WHRL. In 2021 she received the New England Patriots Myra Kraft Community MVP award for her volunteer service at WHRL. Her interest in gardening and nutrition contributed to the origins of Incredible Edible Milbridge. Chris served three terms on the Washington County Committee of the Maine Community Foundation and in 2023 served on the statewide grant review committee.
Susan Jordan Bennet
Chief operating Officer
Susan has been involved with WHRL since 2005 as a volunteer, board member, president of the board, and now as our Chief Operating Officer.
She brings with her a collection of experiences in administration, program development, communication and marketing, higher education, and social services.
Susan is a graduate of the Wittenberg University. She lives in Milbridge with her husband, Paul, and a myriad of critters. In her free time you’re likely to find her hiking and photographing Maine, on her porch, or designing.
Zabet joined WHRL in 2018 as a gardener; she now works with us full-time, focusing her efforts on programming and community collaboration. She is particularly passionate about getting people outdoors — whether it is in the garden or on a hike! This passion led her to spearhead the program OWL: Outdoor Women Lead.
Zabet has a BA from the College of the Atlantic, with a focus on sustainable business and food systems. She is a Master Gardener Volunteer of Hancock/Washington County and is currently on the MGV Advisory Council. She loves the strong sense of community in Downeast Maine, the deep connection people have to the land, and the hard-working women that work with WHRL.
Lizzie joined the team of WHRL in the fall of 2023, and couldn’t be happier to be here! She has always had a passion for reading, which grew into becoming a public librarian. Although her love of books drew her to the library, it was there that she developed a focus on building community spaces that fostered connections and lifelong learning. Lizzie loves designing programming for and with her community, whether it is call-in programming over the phone for isolated seniors during the pandemic, cooking classes, book and film clubs, children’s singalongs with her trusty ukulele, or coffee and conversation hours. She is always excited to find new ways to learn from and serve her community!
Lizzie lives and farms with her husband, their sweet dog Harry, and their elderly cat Layla in Cherryfield, ME. In her free time you can find her at the Cherryfield and Franklin Open Mics, swimming across Spring River Lake, or reading her latest favorite book.
Communications and Special Events Coordinator
Kelly joined WHRL in 2023 as the Communications and Special Events Coordinator. She has spent over 30 years in the healthcare industry and brings varying expertise in customer service, process improvement, training, team building, and project management. Throughout her career, communicating and collaborating with others has always been important. Kelly believes communication is a key ingredient in all aspects of life.
Kelly and her husband fulfilled a dream to live in Maine when they moved to Steuben in late 2022. She loves the natural beauty surrounding the area and the sense of community in small towns. Kelly enjoys walking, hiking, music, crocheting, and knitting. Whether out hiking with her husband, enjoying time by the ocean with friends, or nurturing friendships through knitting groups at the local libraries, Maine feels like home.
Board of Directors
Pat Olsen moved to Cherryfield after 24 years accompanying her husband on diplomatic assignments to countries in the Middle East, Europe and the Pacific. She is an educator who has taught in public, private and international schools as well as home-schooled. Pat’s years in foreign environments provided her with experience in community building, cultural adaptation and cross-cultural initiatives. She has a B.A in Psychology and German from Colby College and a M.Ed. from George Mason University. She enjoys outdoor recreation, fiber arts, cooking, and traveling.
Pam Dyer Stewart
Pam Dyer Stewart was a home birth midwife in Downeast Maine for over thirty years until her retirement in 2017. She served on the national midwifery board and was active in state midwifery politics. As the mother of four grown children, she knows the central role moms play in the family circle. In her work, she affirmed women’s ways of knowing and supported their physical and emotional self-care. Pam joined the WHRL board in 2009. Currently, she serves as secretary and as coordinator of Incredible Edible Milbridge. With her husband, Brian, she grows vegetables and tends chickens for eggs and meat. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, hiking, biking, reading, fiber arts, and all the visits she can get with her children and grandchildren.
Hannah Bennett is a Milbridge native and has been involved with WHRL first as a volunteer beginning in school, and now a board member. She currently lives in Harrington with her cat, Snape, and works as an Academic Advisor for Bowdoin Upward Bound.
Hannah graduated from Denison University with a BA in Cinema. She loves writing and filmmaking and aspires to be a screenwriter. When not behind her camera, you can find her spending time with her superhero mother on nature adventures, crafting, and collecting sea glass.
Ora, a Massachusetts native, has happily called Maine her home for forty-eight years. She graduated from Emmanuel College in Boston with a BA in education and art. Developing and implementing the first visual art curriculum at Narraguagus High School, she taught the program there for twenty-four years. Upon her retirement in 2008, she joined the board of the Women’s Health Resource Library and is proud to be a part of this dynamic group of community-minded women. As past-president of the Pleasant River Garden Club and its current secretary, she has a special interest in WHRL’s Incredible Edible Milbridge project which promotes food equity, community gardening skills, and nutrition education. Married to her husband, Carl, for 55 years and mother of four, she enjoys cooking, painting, gardening, and most especially, watching their nine grandchildren grow!
Alison grew up in NY and spent summers at the family camp in Maine. After graduating from William & Mary, she moved to California. While raising 2 kids of her own, she opened her family to foster teens, several from the high school where she was a teacher for 20 years. She taught math, English, and history to many who needed the extra love, discipline, and pb & j provided in her classroom. Preparing meals for a family of 10 has been replaced by cooking in retirement for David and friends, sometimes around the campfire, sometimes for the 50 or so at DETOP. Hiking, reading, FaceTime with kids and grandkids are other favorite activities. Secretly, Alison might be most happy when she is making people laugh.
Carla Ganiel is the Learning and Evaluation Officer at the Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation in Rochester, New York. For over two decades, she has led evaluation and learning initiatives in the philanthropic, government, and nonprofit sectors. Previously, she served as the Organizational Learning Officer at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation in Menlo Park, California, and led performance measurement and evaluation capacity building efforts for AmeriCorps, a federal grant program based in Washington, DC. Carla works remotely from her home in Harrington, Maine, where she was born and raised. She serves on the boards of the Maine Academy of Modern Music, Women for Healthy Rural Living, and the Sunrise County Economic Council. She spends her leisure time reading, baking, camping, and hiking.
Originally from Massachusetts, Wendy attended Lesley College and joined the Peace Corps. She has a degree in education. In 2002, Wendy moved to Addison to work with the Maine Seacoast Mission, where she developed the Mission’s EdGE Program with her husband Charlie. She also helped create the Downeast Table of Plenty. Throughout her career, Wendy’s work has been centered on children and families and building healthy, caring communities. She was a founding member of the Washington County Food and Fuel Alliance and serves as board president. She is on the board of Eastport Health Center and the Cape Split Chapel. Wendy enjoys fiber arts, yoga, and adventures with her husband, three children, and six grandchildren. Wendy is excited to work with WHRL and the many programs that help build a healthy, caring community for all.
Barbara arrived in Boston from the UK in 1964. After working at a consulting company for 10 years she went back to school and received her BA and JD from Wellesley College and Suffolk University Law School respectively. She worked at Winchester Hospital in Massachusetts as head of Human Resources and in-house General Counsel until 2001, when she retired, but kept her association with the hospital by becoming a volunteer. Barbara and her partner, Ron, built their house in Milbridge in 2002. Ron died in 2016, and she made plans to live full-time in Milbridge, making the move final in 2018. Barbara is looking forward to working with WHRL in whatever capacity and whatever projects she can be helpful.
Juana Rodriguez Vazquez
Juana joined the WHRL board in March 2018. Fifteen years ago, she came to Milbridge to participate in Maine’s wild blueberry harvest. In 2013, she became involved with Comienza en Casa / It Starts at Home to prepare her to be her son’s first teacher and prepare him for success in elementary school. Her active participation over the years and her commitment to sharing her knowledge and experience with other parents led her to become a part-time AmeriCorps member with Mano en Mano in 2014. She is now the Migrant Education Regional Coordinator at Mano en Mano. Juana is currently pursuing her degree in education at the University of Maine at Machias.
Jamie was born and raised in Downeast, Maine, and graduated from Narraguagus High School. She worked at MBNA for seven years– “It taught me valuable skills that would allow me to see possibility beyond the boundaries of the seasonal work that supported my youth, and it gave me permission to desire more.” She completed her undergraduate degree in 2014 and her M.S.Ed in 2019. Jamie worked for the UMaine System from 2017 through 2021. In 2022, she started her current HR position at Wyman’s. Jamie is a single mom to one son. “I am proud to live and work here, and I want our young women to realize just how much potential is out there, however you define success.” She enjoys cooking, baking, kayaking, and fishing in her free time.
Community Advisory Council
- Bonnie Blagojevic, Orono
- Darla Crocker, Sorrento
- Katie Doble, Steuben
- Alison Enslin, Milbridge
- Noelle Humphrey, Steuben
- Kristen Nabarrete, Milbridge
- Maeve Perry, Cherryfield
- Kayla Pinkham, Harrington
- Ellen Rossi, Milbridge
- Francie Shepherd, Milbridge
- Janie Snider, Milbridge
- Hermila Vargas, Milbridge