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. Our mission: to advance and promote the health and well-being of the woman, her family, and her community.
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. Our organization is almost entirely volunteer, with a working board and over 100 volunteers.
Research shows that women are the primary consumers of health care for their families. By targeting our message to women, we hope to impact the health and wellness of the entire family and community.
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 serves on the Washington County Committee of the Maine Community Foundation.
Susan Jordan Bennet
Susan has been involved with WHRL since 2005 as a volunteer, board member, president of the board, and now as our Associate Director.
She brings with her a collection of experiences in social services, communication and marketing, higher education, and program development.
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 has lived in Maine for over ten years and in Washington County for four. She loves the strong sense of community here, the deep connection people have to the land, and the hard-working women that work with WHRL.
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.
Maeve Perry is a Freelance Artist in Downeast Maine, where her roots run deep. With her son, partner, and pup by her side, she continues to grow and develop and credits her mother with the inspiration to meaningfully engage in her community.
Since graduating from the Psychology & Community Studies program at the University of Maine in Machias in 2011, Maeve has worked with children and families and served her local school board. She is also part of the Cherryfield Arts Initiative Board and has endeavored to offer free art opportunities for children as part of that program.
Maeve feels fortunate to enjoy a support system of caring and creative people. She is most passionate about women’s health and addressing the unmet basic needs of children and families. Maeve joined WHRL in 2015 to be closer to the strong and supportive females that she grew up with, and her connection with fellow board members and the WHRL mission is something she can’t imagine living without. She has contributed laughter, energy, and creativity to the group and hopes to be a part of the WHRL for many years to come.
Jenny, along with her family, runs Intervale Farm in Cherryfield, where they grow and sell organic blueberries, cut flowers, and make homemade blueberry fruit spread. She joined the WHRL board in the spring of 2017 and loves being part of this dynamic group of dreamers and doers!
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.
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.
Alahna is a counselor at Pleasant Point Health Center in the Passamaquoddy community of Sipayik, putting her degree in art therapy and her interest in storytelling to work in the service of community healing. She is passionate about recognizing and celebrating the powerful role women play in healthy rural living. She is a mother of four sons who are growing up tall amongst the birches of their home in Columbia and is a nearly lifelong resident of her beloved home of Downeast, Maine.
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.
Ellen, a proud Milbridge native, worked at Wyman’s of Maine for 36 years, first in the quality department and later as director of operations. As part of her work with Wyman’s, Ellen had the opportunity to travel internationally, which she still enjoys. After retirement, Ellen started volunteering at Maine Coast Memorial Hospital on the medical/surgical unit and the wound clinic. She also volunteers in the first grade at Milbridge Elementary School, helping students with reading and math. In her spare time, Ellen enjoys reading and helping the elderly in her community. She and her husband Nolan have been married for 50 years, have two children, two grandchildren, and 1 great-granddaughter. Ellen enjoys being part of the WHRL board and appreciates the dedication and passion of the group.
Krissy is a Kindergarten teacher, artisan and mother of 2 boys. She fell in love with Downeast Maine when she came to college, and found home. Krissy loves the natural world, children, animals, art and chocolate. She loves the beauty and wildness of Downeast Maine and her community. She has served the WHRL board since 2015 and believes in helping others! She enjoys hiking, swimming, reading, gardening, creative time, coffee, chocolate and time with friends and family!
Community Advisory Council
- Eileen Bader-Hall, Cherryfield
- Bonnie Blagojevic, Orono
- Katie Doble, Steuben
- Janis Graslie, Addison
- Bonnie Johnson, Cherryfield
- Krystal Jordan, Milbridge
- Janis Lesbines, Columbia
- Kristen Nabarrete, Milbridge
- Emily Naples, Sullivan
- Kayla Pinkham
- Francie Shepherd, Milbridge
- Janie Snider, Milbridge
- Jamie Spencer, Harrington
- Ellen Strout, Milbridge