The Star-Herald

Maine Hope Center and ACAP give clothes away to families struggling from pandemic

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — On Tuesday, Sept. 8 and Wednesday, Sept. 9, the Aroostook County Action Program in Presque Isle gave away clothes to residents as part of its response to the economic effects of the COVID-19 in Aroostook County. 

The estimated 15,000 items of clothing were given to ACAP by Helena and Kenneth Garrett of the non-profit Maine Hope Center store in Presque Isle. The Garretts plan on transitioning their thrift store to selling health and disability-related items — including masks, personal protective equipment (PPE) and gloves — by the beginning of next month. United Way of Aroostook also assisted in the effort. 

Patrons picked through racks of clothing outside ACAP’s Presque Isle facility, with clothes available for adults, children and infants alike. ACAP Development and Communications Manager Sherry Locke said now was the perfect time for a giveaway, as many families in Presque Isle were sending their young children back to school. 

Locke — who has seen the economic effects of COVID-19 on The County first-hand through her work with ACAP — said the pandemic had become more of an economic crisis than a medical one in Aroostook County. 

“There still are a lot of people who aren’t back to work or are just getting ready to,” Locke said. “It’s been several months of financial stress, and events like this just help to lift that burden.” 

Locke said residents had donated additional clothing to ACAP during the giveaway and that ACAP might continue to give away clothes beyond Wednesday depending on future donations.

Helena Garrett said that she and her husband wanted to give back to residents as they transitioned their store to fit the times. She said she reached out to ACAP about the idea last week because of its prevalence in the community. 

“There’s a lot of families that need clothing,” Helena Garrett said. “We collectively thought it would be a good way to give clothes away to people.”

The Garretts said that the clothing items had been given to them for free by Wallis Drew of the Daisy Boutique in Patten. Drew had also been transitioning her store at the time. 

“The coronavirus is impacting everybody financially. It’s made it a little difficult for us to have the store open with volunteers,” Kenneth Garrett said. “We wanted to take what was freely given to us… and just hope that, during this time, it could benefit everyone.”

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