Lisa Campbell, left, and Yvette Cave were among the volunteers distributing Thanksgiving food boxes to needy folks on Tuesday at York County Shelter Programs on Shaker Hill in Alfred. Shelter officials said they expected to distribute 1,800 to 2,000 boxes of food for the holiday this year. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

Lisa Campbell, left, and Yvette Cave were among the volunteers distributing Thanksgiving food boxes to needy folks on Tuesday at York County Shelter Programs on Shaker Hill in Alfred. Shelter officials said they expected to distribute 1,800 to 2,000 boxes of food for the holiday this year. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

ALFRED — Deb Carson and her young helper Acadia Regan deftly closed the lid on one more box of food — one more box containing a turkey and all the fixing, plus a little bit more, for Thanksgiving.

Deb Carson of Gray and Acadia Regan of Dayton were among the volunteers helping pack Thanksgiving food boxes at York County Shelter Programs in Alfred on Tuesday.  TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

Deb Carson of Gray and Acadia Regan of Dayton were among the volunteers helping pack Thanksgiving food boxes at York County Shelter Programs in Alfred on Tuesday. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

They and several others were volunteering in the cool of the big barn on Shaker Hill in Alfred Tuesday at York County Shelter Programs, where the Thanksgiving food distribution to folks who wouldn’t otherwise be able to enjoy a holiday meal was in its second day.

On the first day of the three-day distribution, 595 families showed up — 145 more than anticipated, based on last year’s figures.

Those in charge of the food pantry and food programs at the shelter on Shaker Hill on Tuesday said if the Monday trend continued, they’d be distributing 1,800 to 2,000 boxes of food — enough to feed upwards of 10,000 people, by the end of the day on Wednesday. That is up from previous years — in 2015, for example, about 1,500 boxes were distributed.

The boxes contain a turkey, vegetables, stuffing, gravy — all the familiar Thanksgiving Day foodstuffs — and some extras, like mac and cheese packed one day last fall by the Sanford Springvale Rotary Club, because extra food is welcome for the days after Thanksgiving as well.

This year, there was homemade blueberry crisp, made by the shelter’s bakery, ready for  families to bake on the day.

The Thanksgiving food distribution — and the one coming up in a few weeks for Christmas — tests the shelter and its food pantry program. Sometimes, acknowledged pantry Director Mike Ouellette and Food Services Director Scott Davis, they worry if they’ll come up short — like they did Monday night when they realized based on the day’s distribution, they’d likely need 400 turkeys they didn’t have for the remaining two days of the distribution.

So they put out the word, and people responded, either with cash or birds — and fingers crossed, there would be enough.

So why, in this seemingly robust economy is the need on the increase?

Several reasons, said Davis.

“From what I’ve seen, the elderly and those on fixed incomes are at high need,” said Davis. 

And of course, there are the families with small children.

With oil and gas prices increasing over the last couple of months, and a power shortage that lasted several days for some families — spoiling food that had been in their freezers — a Thanksgiving box is welcome.

“Food and heat are the two things people need. We do the food,” said Davis.

Much of the food is donated or purchased, sometimes at reduced costs by working with area businesses. Some other food pantries that are in a position to do so, help, said Ouellette, noting some recent contributions from the Seacoast Food Pantry.

With the Thanksgiving distribution complete, the shelter will switch their focus to Christmas. The Christmas distribution is expected to be busy, and the shelter is looking for donations of hams — or the cash to buy them — for the Christmas boxes.

The distributions wouldn’t happen without the volunteers, both Davis and Ouellette said. 

When the volunteer distribution crew came in to start handing out boxes on Monday, the filled boxes were lined up neatly on the floor, courtesy of the University of New England hockey team, Ouellette pointed out. Southern Maine Health Care volunteers were to have pitched in on Wednesday. Students form St. Thomas School in Sanford, Berwick Academy and the New School in Kennebunk also helped, among others.

Being able to help brings a sense of well-being.

“It makes you feel good at the end of the day,” said Davis. “It’s worth it.”

On Tuesday, shelter residents, staff and a bevy of volunteers packed boxes or passed them out, with a smile, to recipients.

Beth Regan of  Dayton has been volunteering  for the past four years and has brought her daughter Acadia for the last two. Her employer, Idexx, encourages volunteerism, she said.

“And we just wanted to help,” said Beth Regan.

Carson of Gray, who also works for Idexx, was busy hefting turkeys into boxes supplied by Volk Packaging of Biddeford.

“It’s a good cause,” she said.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]


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