To the editor:
As director of Friends of Aroostook I would like to thank those who have helped make our county support program successful through out the year. Unless one is involved in a program that is designed to help the less fortunate it is impossible to fully understand the commitment folks in Aroostook have in regard to supporting and encouraging their neighbors. In this letter, I’ll identify those who assisted us during our first year of supporting others in their effort to acquire life’s basic needs.
In 2008 Empowering Life committed their resources to developing a program that would fill gaps and shortfalls county residents experience in providing life’s basic needs, food and winter heat, for themselves and their families. With much prayer and effort the Friends of Aroostook program was birthed in 2008. Since its conception and to date many Aroostook County organizations, businesses, and individuals have come forward, showing interest and support for underserved families who live in northern Maine.
When providing an essential service it is important to get the word out to the public. Northeast Publishing and staff has kept the county informed of local news, local activities, as well as news outside of the county for many years. Empowering Life would like to publicly thank Northeast Publishing for the support our programs have received from their newspapers. My hat goes off to all who work at Northeast Publishing.
During the winter season of 2008-09 we supplied firewood to those who came up short in their winter heating needs. Two local wood contractors and volunteers made it possible for Friends of Aroostook to fill these gaps. Last year we helped families in Presque Isle, Weston, Island Falls, Houlton, and towns in-between. Recently Region 2 forestry students sawed, split, and piled firewood that will be distributed during the coming winter months. This year’s goal is to expand our service area and include Aroostook County’s low-income working families. Although there are state and federal programs in place, many households with working members do not fall within program guidelines. Our program is designed to bridge these gaps.
Throughout the summer we provided 18,800 lbs. of field fresh vegetables to the elderly, food pantries, and others. Empowering Life, a local farmer, Mac’s Best Produce, and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension made this possible. All vegetables were grown in the county, and we were able to hold true to our mission, “Conecting local resources with local needs.” I find it important to thank the volunteers who committed their time and effort to give others a hand up. Area youth, adults, and central Aroostook Boy Scout troops 170, 171 and 187 harvested the produce as it became available. These volunteers provided more than 1,000 hours of service to the county through our program.
Catholic Charities in Caribou (serving 24 county food pantries) and Meals On Wheels (providing 102,000 meals to Aroostook County’s home bound in 2008) delivered the fresh vegetables throughout our county. Friends of Aroostook is both pleased and excited to join in partnership with these agencies as they continue to provide supportive services to our area.
By now I’m sure some are asking how was the Friends of Aroostook financed? This program and many others are made possible through the generosity of northern Maine’s concerned citizens and The United Way of Aroostook. If you currently give to the United Way, ”thank you”, if you have not supported The United Way of Aroostook in the past please consider a contribution this year. Although the needs in Aroostook are great, I believe the resources are greater. Northern Maine is fortunate to have so many “amazing people” within its borders.
If you would like more information about Empowering Life and the Friends of Aroostook program call (207) 532-9906 or visit our Web site at www.empoweringlife.org
Dale Flewelling, director
Friends of Aroostook