I am grateful for the June 15 article by staff writer Randy Billings that addressed the increase in asylum seekers coming to Portland. Anticipating that there may be some taxpayer pushback, I would like to add some perspective.

As a Portland resident, I recognize that Maine is facing major issues even without supporting newcomers. Food insecurity, the opioid epidemic, child welfare and homelessness all come readily to mind. These are complex, systemic challenges that require attention, ideas and resources. I also recognize that Maine’s wealth is not evenly distributed. I can easily understand why an impoverished taxpayer in Washington County would not want their tax dollars going to strangers “from away.”

This is why I would like to point out that many private organizations contribute to supporting new Mainers in the Portland area.

All of the religious denominations with which I am familiar have a tradition of caring for the stranger. Williston-Immanuel United Church downtown has a long history of reaching out to support its neighbors in need. Those needs have changed over the decades, and the outreach has evolved with the times, but the mission continues. We are committed to offering food and financial assistance three times per month. We have already touched hundreds of lives this year in this way.

Over the years we have been greatly aided by the Cora Brown Foundation and the Portland Provident Association. Both of these philanthropic organizations were founded well over 100 years ago to help feed Portland’s hungry.

Different faith communities in the area serve different niches. Off the top of my head, I am aware of Baptist, Jewish, Mormon, United Church of Christ, Episcopal, Catholic, United Methodist, Pentecostal, Unitarian Universalist and Church of God congregations all serving this population. Each has a different approach that matches their resources to their clientele.

We’ve been helped through food contributions from the Salvation Army and the Letter Carriers’ Stamp Out Hunger drive. Partners for World Health has donated toiletries and hygiene supplies. We have passed along used laptops. Oakhurst has helped feed our guests.

The Lions Clubs of three different communities have been helping to secure eye care for a newcomer losing her vision. AARP responded enthusiastically to an inquiry seeking volunteer assistance.

ProsperityME is a local nonprofit founded by a former asylum seeker to provide financial literacy education. The refugee-founded Maine Access Immigrant Network helps newcomers with similar cultural backgrounds navigate and access our crazy health care system. The newspaper Amjambo Africa! has appeared, educating Mainers and Africans alike.

The New Mainers Resource Center does wondrous things, helping to boost English language skills and job readiness. It has also been working with Southern Maine Community College in making education accessible to those who come with credentials not recognized in this country.

The School of Social Work at the University of New England recently inaugurated an Empowering Cultural Education course to prepare health care professionals for the multicultural population they will serve.

This incomplete list reflects hundreds of individuals committed to assisting those fleeing their homes with next to nothing in order to save their lives. While I cannot speak for all in this informal network of compassion, I recognize that when I share, it means that I have enough. When I can give, it means that I have more than enough.

I also believe that once these newcomers are here, having come with hearts full of courage and hope, pockets nearly empty, they are my neighbors. I’ve been an American all of my life, and I maintain that part of that heritage is that neighbors help neighbors.

From the native peoples, early Europeans and enslaved Africans to the many immigrants who came from all over the world for a myriad of reasons, we share a heritage of infinite variety. Each one of us is a unique story.

We have not always done immigration well. Nonetheless, a diversity of cultures has woven the web of this country and given it what strength, color and texture it has.

It would be wonderful in these divisive times if we Mainers could maintain the momentum to get it right this time and grant each individual the respect and dignity to which every person is entitled. This certainly starts with food and shelter.

The fact remains that Maine has the oldest population in the country and has difficulty attracting and keeping young, skilled talent. We have talented foreign-born people paying their own ways here, wanting to work. It is my hope that we will continue to welcome them.