Hundreds gather for a Portland Greendrinks event to meet 'n greet, hoist a glass and support a worthy cause.
By MARGARET LOGAN
It was the ideal setting for an after-work social networking event. Sure, the weather wasn't what it could have been, with a looming fog bank about to make landfall, threatening clouds overhead and a heavy dampness in the air, but when you are hanging out on East End Beach at the base of the Eastern Promenade in Portland with friendly dogs romping in the sand, boats sitting quietly at their moorings and, for that perfect finishing touch, a large tanker anchored in the middle of Casco Bay, one feels quite content.
Tim Stevenson, web developer at the VIA Agency, Josh Farrell-Starbuck of Portland, and Traci Greer, media supervisor at VIA
Melissa Anson of Maine Coastal Program, Rachel McDonald of Common Street Arts in Waterville, and Felicia Heider of the National Academy for State Health Policy.
Add to that 300 or more like-minded professionals who share an affinity for environmental and sustainability issues, and who gather on the second Tuesday of each month to grab a beer and chat with new people, all the while supporting a different local nonprofit each time, and you've got a winning combination.
"Once we started to get a critical mass of people, we wanted to do something positive with that energy," said Sean Sullivan, president of Portland Greendrinks, explaining how the nonprofit got its start here in Portland back in 2010. "It's really grown beyond the environmental piece, and it's become more about bringingyoung professionals and engaged, civic-minded people together to have a conversation."
"The following we have on social media is really strong," explained Ben McCormack, treasurer of Portland Greendrinks and organizer of this evening's festivities. "We're able to attract 350 to 450 people to every event, and we're able to generate good revenue for the nonprofits we support."
With a passing glance, one can't help but be amazed at not only the sheer number of people in attendance, but also how much fun everyone is having. People who seemed to know each other for ages could be heard introducing themselves in the middle of a conversation in the most genuine of ways.
"I'm new to the area, and it's a great way to meet people," said Felicia Heider, who works at the National Academy for State Health Policy in Portland.
Her friends Melissa Anson of Scarborough and Rachel McDonald couldn't have agreed more.
"It's also a nice way to get people to new places," said McDonald, who works at Common Street Arts in Waterville.
"Portland is a small town that knows what's going on," agreed Matt Dodge, a freelance writer and driver for Maine Pedicabs who attended with his friends Meg K. Walsh, a manager at Bayside Clay Center and Sam Cohen, who works at Rosemont Market "on the Hill," as he likes to say. "I've been to quite a few of these. It's a good chance to see everyone you know while supporting local business."
"It's a good vibe," said Josh Farrell-Starbuck, formerly of Barrington, R.I., and now a Portland resident. "It's comfortable."
Indeed. There is no pretense here. Nothing seems awkward or forced -- or especially polished, for that matter. Which is exactly why Portland Greendrinks is so important, perhaps, and so popular.
"It's an opportunity to meet someone new and talk with them," explained Traci Greer, a media supervisor at the VIA Agency in Portland. "It takes those barriers down."
"You mingle and meet new people," agreed Matt Scheumann, a colleague of Greer's at VIA. "but there is no pressure. Your arena is not, 'This is what I do for a living,' it's, 'This is what I do for fun."'
And fun was being had in spades. You see, part of the charm of the Portland Greendrinks experience is that each guest is asked to bring their own drinking vessels. And while mason jars and travel coffee mugs seemed to be most peoples' "vessel" of choice, it must be noted that a Smiling Hill Farm milk bottle was also spotted.
"We see ourselves as a portal, or a gateway," said Sullivan, looking out at the expanse of beach packed with guests, who on this night were there to lend support to Friends of the Eastern Promenade. "We want to connect people. Ourreal goal is to be a facilitator more than a destination."
Margaret Logan is a freelance writer who lives in Scarborough. She can be contacted at: