The Star-Herald

Telethon to support Aroostook County food pantries returns

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The Operation 24 Telethon will once again be happening on March 11 on WAGM-TV.  However, this year the name had to be changed to Operation Hunger due to Catholic Charities now serving over 28 food pantries.

  Catholic Charities has been working daily since COVID-19 entered our communities to provide tons and tons of food to the people of Aroostook County. They have gone from supporting 24 food pantries to 28-plus, as well as doing mass distributions of food throughout Aroostook County. 

In some situations, the pantries have gone through food faster than ever and have had to resort to purchasing food at full cost in emergency situations when food was not available to them from Good Shepherd Food Bank. 

Dixie Shaw, director of hunger and relief services for Catholic Charities said, “I have worked for Catholic Charities for 33 years and never in my life have I seen such need as I have seen this past year. We added more pantries and distributed to them as needed as well as guided them through a multitude of challenges from using volunteers to learning new ways to distribute with the increased food needs.” 

  The coronavirus pandemic changed so much in our lives, from where we work to how we buy our groceries. For hardworking families across Aroostook County, the economic impact of the pandemic means long-term financial hardship,” said Sarah Ennis, executive director.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, hundreds have filed for unemployment. That means families in our communities are facing the difficult decision of paying rent or buying groceries this month – and will likely face similar difficult decisions in the months to come as they recover. Many of these families have turned to food banks for support,” Ennis said.

Tammy Goetsch from Adopt-A-Block Aroostook, a Catholic Charities supported food program, said she saw a large increase in numbers of families, seniors and veterans who turned up for their food distribution events.

“I spoke with one woman who said if she didn’t have the help of AABA, her kids would have gone hungry on more than a few occasions. Another said that receiving food assistance has been such a help in feeding her multi-generational family and relieving the stress and uncertainty in our lives as money is so tight,” Goetsch said.

This telethon is a partnership between United Way of Aroostook, WAGM-TV and Catholic Charities. Community members will have the opportunity to help support these pantries during the March 11 telethon. WAGM will broadcast the telethon throughout the day and phone lines will be available from 5:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. 

Donations can be made in advance and sent to United Way of Aroostook at 830 Main Street in Presque Isle. Those donations should be made out to United Way of Aroostook. Any amount helps, whether it is $5 or $50. Everyone can help keep those most in need afloat.

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