GIFT volunteers honored at annual meeting

10 years ago

    PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Volunteers for GIFT (Grace Interfaith Food Table) were honored at the annual meeting held at the Grant Memorial United Methodist Church on April 28.

    Volunteers are considered the backbone of the organization who make the mission of GIFT a reality.

“About 15 percent of local people live in poverty. It costs far less to provide nutritious food than to pay the consequences of poor and inadequate diets,” said Connie Sandstrom, GIFT’s chairwoman.
Sandstrom said GIFT strives to provide a wholesome variety of foods.
GIFT Director of Volunteer Services Charlene Buzza discussed the roles and dedication of the organization’s volunteers, noting in March “they gave over 302 hours of service.”
Michele Lombard-Fowler, who has been active with GIFT since 2003 and most recently served as director of volunteer services, was recognized for her remarkable work. Initially serving with Sister Mary Kelley of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Lombard-Fowler led GIFT through a period of rapid growth to meet the ever-increasing need for food. Her drive, enthusiasm, professionalism and dedication reflect the characteristics typical of the agency’s volunteers.
Jim Krysiak of Catholic Charities Maine served as keynote speaker. He described the food distribution network serving 24 food pantries from Fort Kent to Danforth.
“On average, each food bank receives about a ton of food each month. Occasionally, food ‘windfalls’ arrive to supplement the normal food distribution,” said Krysiak.
Krysiak and the team at Catholic Charities in Caribou work tirelessly to promptly fill the trucks and vans that transport food to the local pantries. Much of the food supplied to Catholic Charities is purchased from Good Shepherd Food Bank based in Auburn.
He said Good Shepherd partners with other agencies to obtain and distribute food to Catholic Charities. Partly because of this arrangement, food is purchased by GIFT in bulk and at greatly-reduced prices. In addition to food supplied by these sources, GIFT must purchase food such as butter or margarine, meat and bread directly from local markets.
Dave Adams, a member of the GIFT board of directors, explained current needs and ways the organization raises funds, seeks to increase food donations and encourages volunteerism.
“In the first quarter of this year, GIFT served 792 individuals, an increase of almost 10 percent over the previous quarter,” Adams said.
A new concept for giving being used this year is ‘GIFT’ cards. These are available at member churches: Grant Memorial United Methodist Church, Presque Isle Congregational Church, St. Mary’s Catholic Church and St. John’s Episcopal Church, and at GIFT. Denominations of $5, $10, $25 and $50 are available.
“Consider honoring a loved one with a GIFT card. They are especially appropriate for anniversaries, birthdays, Memorial Day and other special events. Alternatively, consider pledging to GIFT; a few dollars a month could be automatically deposited” to the agency’s account, noted Adams.
While food donations are always welcome, cash is more helpful than food — and greatly appreciated — because of GIFT’s ability to purchase in bulk or at very substantial discounts. Volunteers are also needed to help with driving, food distribution, administrative tasks and in other ways contribute to this crucial mission.
“Flowers fade and countless gifts are soon forgotten. A Gift to GIFT could save a life and ease the pain of hunger. Please help,” said volunteer Jim Pritchard. Pritchard and his wife, Marty, donated the use of a few acres of land in Chapman last year for a garden plot which is maintained by Catholic Charities personnel and volunteers.
GIFT is a non-profit partnership working to meet hunger needs in Presque Isle, Mapleton, Chapman, Castle Hill and Crouseville. The facility is located at 11 Industrial St. in Presque Isle. For more information, call 764-8584.