Bob and Andrea Howe host hundreds of American heroes at the Pine Grove Lodge. They don’t ask for much in return.
The Pine Grove Program is made possible by donations but also through the owner’s business efforts.
“I am not very good at asking anybody for anything,” said Bob.
Charity work isn’t cheap. They avert government interference by avoiding grants altogether.
“Grants is like trying to use sugar to sustain yourself,” said snowshoe maker David Giampetruzzi.
Instead, countless friends donate time, food, and money, “I could list-off names of people that help me that wouldn’t fit in a dump truck so it is not me it is everybody else,” said Bob.
Money made from the lodge along with profits from their snowshoe company covers what’s left. But, that almost wasn’t the case. Bob explained,” I was actually going to give the snowshoe company to four vets. I said, let me get four vets, I’ll teach them how to do this. They’ll be able to make a living. So he thought about it for awhile and he came back and said.”
“Rather than give it away, why don’t we try to work the, expand it out and use that as a means to raise funds to support it,” said Giampetruzzi.
That’s plan has been pretty successful. They hope to sell 500 pairs this year at 200 dollars a pop. That’s a projected 100-thousand dollars going back into the program. Andrea Howe, said, “I just always felt that he considered it his share and that he didn’t serve but he wants to pay tribute.
“And this is what he wants. He is striving to help veterans out,” said veteran and hunter Carl Pettengill.
Weaving the shoes is an intricate craft. It is a skill Bob shares with a select crowd. “And sometimes you can make a mistake right here. You’ll have it all done and it is the last thing you do and you say, oh my gosh,” said Giampetruzzi.
“If a man makes a living on these shoes you can call me up and talk to me. You can’t go and buy a pair of aluminum snowshoes and try and call the guy up that made them. He isn’t gonna do it.”
They ship products all over the world. In February they expanded locally, opening a store in Bingham. ”We have our own products, our snowshoes and snowshoe furniture as well as a lot of other local Maine made products,” said Andrea.
The duo is driven to provide selfless service to veterans, visitors and volunteers. They’re all a piece of the puzzle in their goal to build a community based on the military instilled value of all of loyalty, duty, and respect.
“You’re not an account number. You’re not somebody who booked a hunt. I am Andrew to them,” said one paying customer.
“They’ll do anything. Anything and everything. They go way above and beyond,” said another.
“The breakfast was great. Lunch is great. Supper is big time at supper time. Everything is a smorgasbord,” said Pettengill with a laugh.
You don’t have to be a military veteran to visit the lodge. They welcome civilian guests as well. You can find information and pricing at pinegrovelodge.com.
If you are a veteran and would like to know more about their free outdoor adventures, visit pinegroveprogram.com.
If you’d like to support the program through a purchase, their on-site company Maine Guide Snowshoes has plenty of products that you might like. They can be found at mgshowshoes.homestead.com.