Island Institute Fellows Ramp Up Impact in Downeast Maine

USDA Rural Development Grant Provides Funding Boost in Three Communities

Posted 2023-11-09


Richard Knox, Senior Marketing Officer, Island Institute


Rockland, ME – Island Institute, a Rockland-based community development organization focused on island and coastal communities, announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded a Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) grant in the amount of $201,000 to support the Island Institute Fellows program. Island Institute Fellows in Brooklin, Tremont, and in Washington County are advancing community goals related to climate change planning, energy efficiency, and community wellness thanks in part to this funding.

“For nearly 25 years, the Island Institute Fellows program has provided critical service to Maine’s island and coastal communities,” said Kimberly A. Hamilton, PhD, Island Institute President. “More than 150 Fellows have had a lasting impact in the rural communities where they are working. USDA Rural Development’s support for this program is a welcome boost.”

To celebrate the award, a group of community members gathered at the Brooklin Town Hall, including Doug Hylan, head of Brooklin’s Climate Response Committee. “Having Grace Carrier as a Fellow is already making a difference in our efforts to improve energy efficiency in our Town,” said Mr. Hylan. “We are grateful to Island Institute and USDA Rural Development for making this happen.”

Island Institute matched the USDA grant, providing further leverage to help fund the Island Institute Fellows program, which spans the Maine coast and is also funded by individual donations, host communities, and private foundations. “The trio of projects this grant will support represent the best of rural community collaboration in Maine,” said USDA Maine State Director Rhiannon Hampson. “Small towns are just as committed to climate response and community resiliency as more urban areas, but often don’t have the staff necessary to realize their goals. Seeing this work in action through the Brooklin Climate Response Committee shows how powerful the combination of diverse local volunteers, town leaders, nonprofits, businesses, and students can be with the added capacity of a Fellow.”

Founded in 1983, Island Institute is celebrating its 40th year of working to sustain Maine’s island and coastal communities. In 1999 the Institute established the Island Institute Fellows Program to place college and master’s degree graduates in Maine’s coastal and year-round island communities for two-year fellowships. Fellowships provide a unique opportunity for recent graduates to apply their skills and gain experience helping to build sustainability within communities whose way of life and identity face many challenges.



The Island Institute is a 40-year-old nonprofit organization, based in Rockland, Maine, that works to sustain Maine’s island and coastal communities and is committed to a just, resilient, and vibrant future for the coast of Maine. For more information, visit