SACO — Years ago, Rick Allen volunteered and donated to people in need in his community. Then things changed and he found himself relying on disability payments and unable to pay for extras like a haircut and new clothes.

“It was kind of a wake-up call when I had to (ask for help) myself,” said Allen, who lives in Biddeford. “I really don’t have that extra money to buy clothes and shoes.”

On Monday, he stood in a second floor hallway of First Parish Congregational Church, picking slowly through a table of donated clothes to find a new shirt. Minutes later, he was getting his hair cut by a volunteer stylist while the friend he arrived with had her nails painted.

For the 10th year, the First Parish Congregational Church turned Martin Luther King Jr. Day into “a day on, not a day off” by opening its doors to give free help to people in need. The annual day of service offers hot meals, use of the church’s laundry and shower facilities, free clothing, haircuts and a variety of health screenings. Volunteers also head out into the community to help out at local food pantries.

The church members and volunteers who spend the day serving the community through the annual event say they are guided by a quote from King: “What are you doing for others?”

“This is the answer we can give,” said Kris Galasyn, education director for the church and organizer of the annual day of service. “There are a lot of people with hard economic times right in our community. This is only one day a year, unfortunately. We wish it was more.”

The day of service began 10 years ago, when a storm dumped 15 inches of snow on Saco and eight guests turned up to receive services. For the next seven years, the day was always marked by snow – sometimes 11 inches, sometimes 3 – but the number of guests who arrived for help grew each year. Last year, 112 guests were served.

During the five-hour event Monday, volunteers provided 93 clients with 50 haircuts, more than 70 pairs of shoes, 45 blankets, 20 osteopathic manipulations, eight foot-care treatments, 19 blood pressure checks and 16 vision screenings. Other volunteers served breakfast and lunch, while teenage volunteers headed into the community to work at seven service organizations.

For many people who visit for a meal or services, the day of service has become an annual tradition.

“I don’t miss this for the world,” said Gail Cole, 59, of Biddeford, as she ate breakfast after filling a shopping bag with donated clothes and shoes. “I see a lot of my old friends I haven’t seen in a while.”

In a room turned into a temporary hair salon, 8-year-old Lucy DesRoberts painted people’s fingernails while her mom cut hair nearby. Five hairdressers spent the day cutting the hair of visitors who said going to a salon is a luxury they simply can’t afford.

When Diane Lockhart, co-owner of Tanglez Hair Salon, heard Tammy Ellis wanted to chop off about 9 inches of her hair, Lockhart convinced her to donate it to Children With Hair Loss, a Michigan organization that provides free wigs to children.

“I was all for it,” said Ellis, who lives in Saco and last had her hair cut at the 2017 day of service. “I’m enjoying the treatment. I got a head massage.”

Judi Klingensmith, a church member from Old Orchard Beach, smiled brightly as she watched Ellis and Lockhart chat during Ellis’ hair cut. Klingensmith has been volunteering at the day of service for the past five years and said she has come to recognize many of the people who return each year.

“Being able to offer this program to the community means so much to all of us here,” she said. “Your heart breaks from some of the stories you hear.”

Lisa Cyr, of Saco, waited in line for a haircut after picking up some donated clothes and books for her grandchildren. She planned to have breakfast with friends who also find the church a welcoming place, she said.

“I think it’s just a heartwarming atmosphere here. It brings out so many people in need,” Cyr said. “The (volunteers) do it out of the warmness and kindness of their hearts.”