Our Historical Roots

Once upon a time, over a century ago, the American Red Cross began establishing chapters in towns around the United States.  They provided a wide range of nursing care in the home, and also trained people to provide home care.  In addition, the Red Cross nurses had established vision, hearing, and health screening in schools.

In the town of Mount Desert, there lived some wise and far-sighted community members who thought a Red Cross chapter and its nurses would be of benefit to Mount Desert residents.  These intelligent and astute folks convinced the Red Cross to establish a chapter in Mount Desert.

In-home nursing care and school health care were provided by Red Cross nurses continued over the years.  Red Cross nurses also acted in accordance with midwifery and attended home births.  Connie Seavey, one of Mount Desert’s senior residents, remembers being told that a Red Cross nurse, Charlotte Nelson, delivered Connie in 1923.

In 1931, funds were raised, land donated, specifications and design done, and the house at 12 Summit Road was built!

The Red Cross provided nursing care and a “town nurse” through WWI and WWII, until in 1948, when the Red Cross changed its mission to a focus on responding to disasters, and swimming/life saving instructions.

At this time, community members, many of them members of the Board of Directors of the local Red Cross Chapter, felt strongly about the prospect of losing their “town nurse.”  So, these prudent folks took on the challenge of creating a new organization, the “Mount Desert Public Health Nursing Association;” an organization which would continue to provide the same services to the residents of the Town of Mount Desert as the Red Cross had provided.  This organization inherited it’s board members from the original Board members of the local Red Cross Board.  The “Mount Desert Public Health Nursing Association” was officially founded September 1, 1949.  The building and land were donated by the Red Cross to the “Mount Desert Nursing Association”, who own it as long as the Nursing Association exists. The new Board stipulated that the MDPHN would provide nursing care to both year-round and summer residents of the Town of Mount Desert, that it would be financially supported by donations, and that no Mount Desert resident would be denied services based on ability to pay.

For many years, the building at 12 Summit Road was known as “The Chapter House”, and the Red Cross continued to meet there once a month for many years.

While the offices of the Nursing Association occupied the lower level of the building, the upstairs contained an apartment.  A number of nurses utilized this living space, with Karol Hagberg being the last nurse to do so.  Since that time, the upstairs has been rented to businesses or groups.

From 1949 into the 80s, the Registered Nurses of Mount Desert Public Health Nursing Association, which later evolved into the Mount Desert Nursing Association (MDNA) continued to provide home health care, school health exams, and community health services.

In the 80s and 90s, schools began to hire school nurses, who then took over the tasks related to school children.  At that point, the Mount Desert Nursing Association began to concentrate on what is now their mission and focus—providing care to patients in their homes, health care management and teaching, and community programs which supported prevention and healthy lifestyles.

Many of the original concepts and goals of the Mount Desert Nursing Association are still in use!

  • Donations are still the primary source of funding and financial support
  • A sliding scale beginning at $0 is used
  • No one is refused service based on ability to pay
  • In-home care and care management are still the focus with the goal of helping people remain in their own homes for as long as possible


MDNA Director Timeline

1949 Ella R. Young
1950-1965 Lucy Barker
1966-1967 Sandra Price Wallace
1968-1977 Karol Hagberg
1978-1986 Ruth Westphal
1987-1988 Wanda Fernald
1989 Margaret Beaulac
1990-2000 Betty Mitchell
2001-2008 Dianne McMullan
2009-2011 Anne Napier
2011-2015 Theo Hinckley
2015 Joyce Anderson
2017-2018 Elise O’Neil
2019—2021 Heather Lewis
2021—Present Amy McVety