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Neighbors Helping Neighbors

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, 4 in 10 individuals served by food banks and pantries are new to charitable food assistance. With the unemployment rate increasing daily, families across Maine are facing a time where they need to ask for help for the first time. It’s times like these that we see all neighbors come together to support one another.

We are regularly surveying food pantries, meal sites, schools, and other hunger relief partners to understand the challenges they are facing and any gaps in service. Surveys are continually used to assess community needs. Our most recent survey showed a trend of Mainers coming together in communities helping their neighbors and making this a comfortable experience for those who have never had to ask for help before.

In our first “Stories from the road” piece, we’re sharing heartfelt stories from across Maine that showcase those putting others first during such unprecedented times.

Bethel District Exchange/Food Pantry

Pat, 83, reached out to the Bethel District Exchange/Food Pantry. She had a stroke last summer. Although she can’t volunteer during this time at the pantry, she wanted us to know that she and her husband were doing fine and wanted to donate her entire stimulus check to the Food Pantry. She insisted that this is something she wanted to do to help others in Western Maine.

Jim has visited the pantry once a week to get food. He’s been collecting food for other families in need that haven’t wanted to leave their house or have never visited a pantry before. He’s a great example of someone who has been thinking of others first during this time, especially.

Adopt-A-Block of Aroostook

In the last eight weeks, we have seen families continue to get in line about two hours early to receive a food bag weighing between 22-25 pounds. One family coming through the line because the dad was laid off from his full-time job when the pandemic hit. They are a family of five with a newborn baby and a 7-year-old, Cooper, with kidney disease. Each week the family comes through and encourages us. Cooper made a sign that we hung on our front door, thanking us for loving our community.

The dad started coming to volunteer and helps with the Thursday prep and Friday food distributions. It was then that he asked if he could come and help us serve our community because he was so grateful for the support we were giving his family. He wanted to be able to give back. He is a Chef by trade and was also willing to assist with the senior meals that are prepared and then delivered. So far, over 1,100 meals were provided in eight weeks. The dad has been here helping prepare these meals for all of those weeks, even after cracking two ribs, he has been a great addition to our volunteer squad. It’s all about community helping community.

Town of Danforth Food Pantry

We are available to the Danforth and Weston/Orient Community twice a month now instead of once a month. There has been, on average, 2 to 3 new clients each visit at every pantry we have. We’ve been experiencing a lack of canned vegetables, which is a concern, but we reassure our communities they are not in this alone and that we are here for them. We encourage them to reach out if they are in need or know of anyone who is.

The small number of volunteers inside the pantry are real troopers, and those who receive from the pantry are genuinely grateful. Neighbors helping neighbors. We are blessed to have a core group of strong young men to unload deliveries.

We recently had a young girl from a neighboring town donate her school fundraiser money to our pantry of $69.00. The worst times bring out the best in others. We are blessed to be a part of this great team. One without the other doesn’t work. Our grant funds have helped to purchase food, locally grown beef, a dual axle enclosed trailer, gas cards for our faithful delivery drivers and cleaning supplies.

We count ourselves blessed to be part of such an excellent service to our surrounding communities. Drive-up service is working well, and our patrons are very pleased with how fast and efficient we are. Seeing the smiling faces of many who utilize the pantry services brings a ray of sunshine to our corner of the world. Kids who come with their parents are a real joy to see, and they are just as excited to see us as we are to see them. We have had a few local teenagers volunteer recently, and they are grateful for the opportunity to help and give back to their community. All is well here, and every day is a new adventure.

Buckfield Food Pantry

Not all heroes wear capes. In the eyes of these students, their heroes are Food Pantry workers. Dressing up for spirit week was a great way to give back to local heroes on the front lines.