The second annual Octoberfest, sponsored by the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, is not only a family fun day, but also a time to cap a months-long campaign to raise money for the Lakes Region’s 10 local food pantries.

The event is free and will be even bigger and better than last year, organizers say.

Last year, Octoberfest raked in $21,000 through the Community Coin Challenge organized by the Sebago Lakes Chamber, which was able to feed 1,200 families for 60 days, said longtime chamber member Sheri Huff, also co-owner of Lee Family Trailer Sales.

The purpose of the coin challenge, in conjunction with Octoberfest, is to serve the 10 local food pantries in the Lakes Region, she said, by raising the necessary funds through a community-wide coin jar collection. All proceeds support the food pantries.

This year, Huff is expecting an even larger turnout.

By the end of this year’s Octoberfest, scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 12, individuals and the businesses taking part aim to raise $40,000 for the pantries, nearly doubling last year’s goal, said Huff.

Octoberfest will take place 11 a.m.-2 p.m. in the parking lot of Buck’s Naked BBQ on Route 302 in North Windham, and admission is free.

On Sept. 5, the chamber had already raised $10,000 toward the $40,000 goal, Huff said, and the kick-off party for the coin challenge, hosted by Windham Weaponry on Aug. 14, raised $8,000 alone.

More than 120 people attended the kick-off event, which showed how the community is invested in the effort to raise money for those less fortunate in the area, Huff said.

“The rapidness of the jars coming back this year, versus last year, is way ahead of schedule. There are a lot of jars coming in earlier,” Huff said of the fundraising efforts.

In its second year, Huff is confident that the community’s awareness of the coin challenge and the difference it made last year, will encourage more people to get involved.

“The town of Raymond is just now running out of the money we gave them in August [last year],” Huff said. “The check we gave them lasted an entire year. A lot of the pantries, what they do with their money is, they buy toiletry items … things they can’t get from their state and town resources.”

And it’s not just businesses that are setting out jars and raising the money.

“Anyone can get the jars, take them home and put them on their own counters. If each of the 400 jars we get out in the community come back with $100, we would hit our $40,000 goal,” Huff said.

According to Huff, $20, or $1 each day, feeds a family of four for 20 days.

A GROWING NEED

After brainstorming ideas about how to bring together all 10 communities that belong to the Sebago Lakes chamber, Huff said she thought of what each town has in common: a food pantry and a family in need.

The Octoberfest and Coin Challenge events have been a step toward a solution to community-wide hunger, she said.

“It’s for a good cause and every penny counts,” Huff said.

Aside from the anticipated increase of those attending, there are no major changes to this year’s Octoberfest. Like last year, the fest will offer free fun for the whole family. (Some activities such as the beer tasting and helicopter rides cost money.)

Kids can enjoy face-painting, pumpkin decorating, bobbing for apples and more. For adults, there will be a beer garden, music and dancing, a chili-chowder cook-off and helicopter rides for a $25 donation and other fun activities.

“There’s around 25 events at this fun family day and anyone can come,” Huff said.

Last year, according to the Windham Police Department, about 4,000 people attended Octoberfest. More than 100 jars of coins were collected last year, Huff said.

“Every penny makes a difference, whether it be a child’s life or an adult going through hardship,” Huff said. “One in four children in Maine go to bed hungry.”

According to Raymond Food Pantry Manager Elmer Young, more than $2,000 raised through the coin challenge, the pantry was able to pay back money it owed to Good Shepherd Food Bank for food it purchased in bulk.

“I participated last year, and it was very helpful,” Young said.

Rene Daniel, who has been manager of the Windham Food Pantry for two years, said the coin challenge “is the most wonderful thing ever,” in terms of raising money for the region’s 10 pantries. “It’s a huge benefit,” he said.

“There is tremendous food insecurity in Windham, especially in the last few months,” said Windham Assistant Town Manager Phyllis Moss.

She said the pantry has also been looking into meeting special dietary needs of its clients and money raised through the coin challenge achieves this goal.

Just in the last month, of the 163 households the pantry served, there were 42 new clients.

“We have seen an increased number of people coming to the pantry,” Moss said, when asked why fundraisers like the coin challenge are beneficial to food pantries.

“Every little bit helps,” Moss said.


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