A recent survey of our readers revealed that many of you wonder just what it is that the Island Institute does (besides publishing The Working Waterfront newspaper, that is). For all of us on staff here at the Institute, fielding that question in professional and social settings can give us pause. Not because we’re confused or unsure; it’s just that the organization is active on many fronts, and we’re often not sure where we should start the conversation.

Yes, we work to help the 15 year-round Maine island communities and the state’s remote coastal towns thrive through our education, community and economic development, marine and energy work. But rather than string together descriptions of our programs, we thought we’d throw some numbers at you, and hope they will begin to tell our story.

Our Island Fellows program puts college grads in island and remote coastal communities, working on a variety of service projects. We recently marked the placement of the 100th fellow, so we’ve been gathering a lot of information about the program.

The Institute operates Archipelago at its Main Street Rockland location, a gift store and arts gallery featuring the work of island artists and craftspeople.

Our marine programs work to, among other things, link fishermen with other fishermen from different parts of the state and even from England and British Columbia, Canada. Workshops also create conversation among scientists, regulators, policy makers and harvesters.

The energy program works to assist islanders in reducing their heating and electricity costs, which typically are much higher than on the mainland.

In addition to our scholarship programs, the education staff works to help remote and island schools connect with each other.

And lastly, a few numbers about The Working Waterfront and Island Journal, our publications:

Thanks for letting us explain who we are and what we do, and thanks for caring about the endlessly fascinating place we cover, Maine’s coast and islands.

Tom Groening is editor of The Working Waterfront and Island Journal.