SACO — Continuing its tradition of turning Martin Luther King Jr. Day into a “day on, not a day off,” the First Parish Congregational Church opened its doors Monday to offer free food and services to people in need.
The fifth annual day of service event has offered hot meals, use of its laundry and shower facilities, free clothing, haircuts and a variety of health screenings.
By mid-morning, about 50 volunteers were at the church to welcome and assist guests who arrived for the event. At least 35 guests showed up for the event Monday morning, but more were expected as the day went on, said Kris Galasyn, education director for the church.
Jennie Powell of Biddeford arrived at the church with several family members. As she watched her son-in-law have his hair cut, she described how thankful she was to receive health screenings and new toiletries and socks. She also planned to get a flu shot and replace the mittens she lost recently with a hand-knit pair.
“I think it’s so wonderful for the community. Every little bit helps,” she said. “When we come in we have big smiles on our faces.”
The Rev. Diane Wendorf of Sanford North Parish UCC came to the event with a group of 20 volunteers, including youth group members from churches in Sanford, Acton and Alfred. They sorted toiletries, bagged pairs of new socks and sanitized toys in a playroom.
“If we could do this all the time, it’s what we’re supposed to be doing,” she said.
In addition to helping guests at the church, local high school students spread out into the community to volunteer at food pantries, youth centers and nursing homes.