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Kindness goes a long way

Meal program fills niche
By Fran Gonzalez | Jun 29, 2020
From left are Sandra Otis-Anderson and Jayne Snowdale, Kindness co-coordinators, and volunteer Emma Snowdale, pictured June 26 at the First Congregational Church vestry in Searsport.

Searsport — A local, charitable initiative is filling a need and providing food security for students and seniors in the Searsport-Stockton Springs area.

The Kindness program, which operates from the vestry of the First Congregational Church, serves between 172 and 200 students a week, according to program co-coordinator Jayne Snowdale.

“We also serve four meals a week for the elderly,” she said. Combined, she estimates they do well over 300 meals every week.

The program is absolutely free and is available to any senior or student from pre-K to age 18, "whether or not they go to an RSU 20 school."

On this day, Snowdale, along with her daughter Emma, and Searsport Selectman and program co-coordinator Sandra Otis-Anderson, stock shelves, pack boxes and unload a truck full of boxes filled with apples from Cherie Merrill of Waldo Community Action Partners.

Otis-Anderson said they also have help from two cooks, one who is part-time, two volunteers who put boxes together, two drivers and one or two shoppers.

The Kindness program was established in the summer of 2019 through the missions committee at Searsport’s First Congregational Church to feed area students when school is not in session. The program was adapted to meet the demands of the global pandemic by also providing meals to elderly shut-ins.

At a meeting with Superintendent Chris Downing of Regional School Unit 20 and community members last year, he raised concern over students not having access to adequate food supplies during school vacations, in spite of the district-wide meal program in place.

Snowdale and Otis-Anderson, accepted the challenge of finding a way to feed those students and convinced Searsport Town Manager James Gillway to pledge support for the program.

To raise funds, Snowdale said they also do a variety of fundraising events, but because of the global pandemic efforts are on hold. "We try to write grants," she said. "Right now we're doing OK. People have been very good. We will have to get through because the people need to eat."

Otis-Anderson said the church supports the group "money-wise," as does the town, but the group is always looking for donations.

The program now offers delivery service, Snowdale said. "They just need to call and say they want to sign up for the program." People enrolling will need to fill out an initial application alerting the staff of any food allergies. The program provides a variety of foods each week with a typical bag for a single child including seven breakfast and lunch items plus snacks.

The senior meals program includes four meals per person with large servings which, Snowdale said, can serve two people. Pickup is on Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the vestry of the First Congregational Church on Knox Bros Avenue, and arrangements for delivery can be made by calling Snowdale at the number below.

"Hunger is in Searsport and Stockton Springs — it's not going anywhere," she said. "We have to help these kids. The goal is to make them realize someone cares and when they get to be our age, they can pay it back."

To help fund this effort, send tax-deductible donations to First Congregational Church, P. O. Box 261, Searsport, ME 04974, and write "Kindness" on the envelope. For questions or to enroll in the program, call Snowdale at 407-694-8733.

Cherie Merrill of Waldo Community Action Partners, left, and Jayne Snowdale, co-coordinator of the Kindness program, unload boxes of apples June 26. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
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