About Women for Healthy Rural Living

Our 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.

Our Mission

To advance and promote the health and well-being of the woman, her family, her community, and the planet.

Vision

Our vision is a more just community where all women are empowered to achieve optimum wellness—physical, emotional, social, and spiritual wellness.

Values

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.

History

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

WHRL continues through the generous financial support of individuals, foundations, and our corporate sponsors: Wyman’s of Maine, Machias Savings Bank, and Down East Community Hospital.

board meeting during COVID

WHRL Board Meeting During COVID

WHRL Staff

Chris Kuhni

Chris Kuhni

Executive Director

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

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.

Lizzie Cunningham

Lizzie Cunningham

Experience Coordinator

Lizzie joined the WHRL team in the fall of 2023 and couldn’t be happier to be here! She has always had a passion for reading, which led to her 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.

Mark Grant

Mark Grant

Incredible Edible Milbridge Coordinator

Mark came to Cherryfield in 2013, seeking to live a simpler life in harmony with the rhythms and patterns of Nature. He has a great love of plants and since moving to Maine has earned his living as a gardener/farmer. Mark has also volunteered with the Maine Seacoast Mission, Downeast Table of Plenty, and is very active in his faith community.

Mark is passionate about health and fitness, getting outdoors into nature, whole grain baking, good food, the domestic arts, household management, and the yearly round of living on a homestead. He lives off-grid amidst sprawling gardens and greenhouses with his partner Adam and their family of cats. In his free time, you will find him meandering along the river or through the woods, playing early American banjo music, or with his face pressed into a good book.

Kelly Hagenbuch

Kelly Hagenbuch

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

Pat Olsen

President

Cherryfield

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.

Darla Crocker

Darla Crocker

Treasurer

Sorrento

After 20 years of summering in Maine, Darla moved here full-time in 2021. She began her accounting career after graduating with a BBA in Accounting. Her first professional job was working as a CPA. During her time raising children, Darla completed a Master’s of Financial Planning and earned her CFP license. Once her youngest started school, she returned to accounting. She later taught math for several years. A move to Florida led her back to accounting where she worked until retiring. These days, you will find Darla volunteering in her town, at WHRL, Frenchman Bay Conservancy, and the Hancock Harvest for Hunger Garden. She enjoys walking, hiking, tennis and pickleball, gardening, and spending time with friends and family.

Pam Dyer Stewart

Pam Dyer Stewart

Secretary

Harrington

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

Hannah Bennett

Assistant Secretary

Milbridge

Hannah Bennett is a Milbridge native who has been involved with WHRL since high school, first as a volunteer and now as a board member. She lives in Milbridge 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 Aselton, Director Emeritus

Ora Aselton, Director Emeritus

Milbridge

Ora, a Massachusetts native, has called Maine her home for 48 years. A graduate of Emmanuel College in Boston with a BA in education and art, Ora developed and implemented the first visual art curriculum at Narraguagus High School, where she taught the program for 24 years. Upon her retirement in 2008, she joined the WHRL’s board 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. 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 Beedy

Alison Beedy

Cherryfield

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

Carla Ganiel

Harrington

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.

Wendy Harrington

Wendy Harrington

Addison

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 Hogan

Barbara Hogan

Milbridge

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.

Erika Mantz

Erika Mantz

Jonesport

Erika and her husband—with a dog, a cat, seven chickens and a hive of bees–moved to Jonesport in the fall of 2021, realizing a dream of living on the ocean and being closer to their camp on Beddington Lake. She moved to southern New Hampshire after graduating from Syracuse University, working for almost three decades in journalism, communications, and public relations, including for the University of New Hampshire. For the last year, she has overseen communications for the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, the only nonprofit organization in the country dedicated to assisting independent booksellers and shop owners in need. She also serves as the Machias Arts Council’s treasurer and volunteers for the Community Christmas Giving Tree program. Erika likes to knit, sew, read, cook, kayak, but most especially to learn and explore and be in community. She is excited to join the board to help ensure more women of all ages have access to all the things WHRL offers without needing to think about if or how they can afford to participate.

Stephanie Moores

Stephanie Moores

Milbridge

Stephanie moved to Milbridge in 2009 and has a strong connection with her community and neighbors. She has worn many hats over the years but found a passion for foster care. She started her journey as a foster/adoptive parent ten years ago and, in that time, has welcomed many children into her home, growing her family not only through children but also through the children’s biological families. She is a strong advocate for children, bio parents, and foster parents alike and often sits on foster parent panels for the Cutler Institute to share her experiences with others starting their foster care journeys.  She attended University of Maine Augusta as a non-traditional student and received a BS in Mental Health and Human Services.  She has her LSW-C, MHRT-C, and BHP and works as a social worker. She is enrolled in the University of Maine School of Social Work Grad Program and working towards becoming a licensed clinical social worker. Stephanie is excited to be a part of WHRL and believes strongly in the vision and mission of the organization. 

 

Jamie Spencer

Jamie Spencer

Harrington

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
  • Katie Doble, Steuben
  • Alison Enslin, Milbridge
  • Noelle Humphrey, Steuben
  • Caroline Murray, Milbridge
  • Kristen Nabarrete, Milbridge
  • Kayla Pinkham, Harrington
  • Francie Shepherd, Milbridge
  • Janie Snider, Milbridge
  • Hermila Vargas, Milbridge
  • Zabet NeuCollins, Sullivan
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