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Stories from the Road – Loaves and Fishes Sabattus

Visiting Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry in Sabattus is like visiting a small-town grocery store, with a warm welcome from friendly faces that make up a tight-knit community. The pantry, which services Litchfield, Wales, Turner, Leeds, Greene, Sabattus, and Monmouth, has seen a significant increase in visitors over the past year. During a recent distribution day, volunteers welcomed 78 individuals in the short time they were open. Despite being open only three days a week—Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday—for just an hour each day, the pantry never turns away anyone in need, even if they come from further away, such as Lewiston or Auburn.

Faye, one of the few dedicated volunteers at the pantry, expresses gratitude for the support from the Good Shepherd Food Bank. “We are lucky we have Good Shepherd [Food Bank],” she shares, especially as the increased need has led to greater spending on food. Bev, a volunteer with over 15 years of service, recalls the early days of bringing food in her pickup truck from the Food Bank. “Wow, I think I have been volunteering here for over 15 years,” she marvels. Both Faye and Bev emphasize the camaraderie among their team. “We work together well and always have a good time doing it,” they say, exchanging friendly greetings and personal updates with every neighbor who comes through the line.

The sense of community extends to all the neighbors who visit. One long-term visitor, who has been coming for six to seven years since returning to Maine to care for her aging parents, appreciates the food and the people. “They do a good job. They’re so nice, and they do a good job,” she says, highlighting how the pantry has become a social place for her and a source of sustenance.

While visiting the pantry, we met with a few volunteers to hear about their volunteer experience and why they keep coming back to Loaves and Fishes to give their time each week. We also met with a few neighbors picking up food at the pantry.

Shelly’s story stands out among the volunteers. Having been with Loaves and Fishes for a year and a half, she’s considered a newbie, yet her dedication is evident. After recurring lung infections ended her career in healthcare, Shelly found solace and support at the pantry, which helped her get back on her feet. “They really helped me out,” she shares. Now, she volunteers every day they are open, valuing the deep connections she’s formed with the community.

One neighbor visiting the pantry that day shared that he is a father of six who finds the pantry not only a place to get food for his family but also a place to socialize and brighten his day. Despite ongoing struggles with mental health and a past marked by addiction, Brandon persists for the sake of his family, finding strength in the community’s support.

Chris, a full-time employee at Loaves and Fishes, oversees various programs including the pantry, a thrift store in Lewiston, and a financial assistance initiative. He takes pride in the direct positive impact their work has on the community. “I am happy that we are helping people,” he says. The resources provided by the pantry help families manage other essential expenses like heat and electricity. Chris notes that most visitors are seniors and families, some of whom have 5-7 children. The pantry’s work not only provides food but also helps families meet other essential needs, making a significant difference in their lives.

Don, another long-time volunteer, reminisces about the pantry’s early days. “Helping people is what I enjoy most, and I like seeing people leave here happy,” he says, reflecting on over twenty years at the pantry. Bev echoes his memories, cherishing the strong sense of teamwork and community spirit that defines Loaves and Fishes.

At Loaves and Fishes, the mission is about more than just food; it’s about a community where everyone is seen, heard, and supported.

With our partner agencies spread throughout the entire state, there will likely be help nearby if you need food. If you’re looking for help or interested in donating food or volunteering at your local food pantry, please visit our Food Map to find a pantry near you.

Good Shepherd Food Bank works in partnership with nearly 600 hunger-relief organizations, located from Kittery to Fort Kent, to help distribute food to community members in need. Our network of partner agencies includes food pantries, meal sites, senior centers, school programs, and healthcare facilities.