How Across the River Counseling was Born

How Across the River Counseling was Born

By Charlene Barton

In 1971 my father, Charles Manchester, died. I was teaching Art K-6 in SAD#22: Hamden, Newberg, and Winterport. My husband, John Barton, was teaching 2nd grade in Newberg. We immediately started looking for jobs closer to my mother. She lived in Falmouth, Maine, where I grew up.

Although it seemed like a long time, it was less than 2 years when John applied for a position at Limerick Elementary School. We began looking for houses that would meet our needs. In addition to 3 children, we had a couple of horses, a donkey, several goats and chickens. I was expecting a baby. Initially it was disappointing. We couldn’t afford what we needed to accommodate our growing family and animals. Then we found an old farmhouse on the Ossippee River that was perfect. There was no indoor plumbing and only a primitive heating system. No bank would give us a mortgage. Happily for us, Harold and Norine Bucknell who owned the property and lived next door, granted us a bond for deed. We were able to move in!

We had decided that I would stay home with the baby and be there when the older children got home from school. The Bucknells were very generous and gave us strawberries, corn, and potatoes. I made jam, we milked the goats, and made corn chowder, which became a staple of our diet. 

Money was tight; John picked up various jobs to make ends meet. I wrote a book and volunteered as art teacher at the Cornish Elementary School. Those are special memories! I took my baby in his carriage to school. While I taught art lessons, the children pushed the baby in his carriage, up and down the halls. 

That turned into a part time job for me! John Hoyt was Superintendent of Schools; Sam Hoyt was Elementary Supervisor. It was important that all the towns benefit from a new program. As all the 5th graders in the district were at the Porter School, that’s where I began teaching art one day a week. At this point, you might well ask, “So what about Across the River Counseling?” I’m getting to that!

The art teaching job expanded. Another teacher, Charlotte Fullam, was hired. I decided to take a year off and attend what was to become MECA. I enjoyed it so much that I stayed for 4 years, graduating with honors and a degree in sculpture. After participating in a program called “Art in Service” I decided that I needed to work in a different way with people.   

My first job as a quasi social worker was the overnight shift at the Salvation Army Lighthouse Shelter for homeless teens in Portland. From there, I got a job at what was the Portland YWCA Teen Parent Program. Kathy Chaiklin was in charge of this unique, low barrier innovation. While there, I earned my LSW and my LADC. My next job was in Androscoggin County with Youth Alternatives. I provided intensive case management for adjudicated youth. From there I entered private practice at Facing Change in Lewiston.

Subsequently, I was able to move south and work in Limerick as an affiliate of Transitions Counseling; next I was an affiliate of Adventure Counseling. My office space was lost when Adventure Counseling ceased to be. At that time a small rental property which we owned, burned to the ground. Fortunately nobody was hurt. It made sense to rebuild and use the new building as an office. I was joined by Willow Whitehouse Briggs. Thus Across the River Counseling was born! Soon we were joined by Francesca DeMaio, Bethanie Jacques, and recently, Theressa Harrigan.    This enabled us to provide a full range of services for the community; children and adults, couples, and families. We accept MaineCare and most insurances as well as slide a fee. 

I feel fortunate to have worked with amazing people in a variety of settings. These include the prison in Windham, an Art program for street people in Portland that was developed with David Hitchcock, and the After School Adventure Program for youth in this area.