The cold days and the long hours of darkness as we move into the winter season are challenging both for those who struggle to get by financially in our communities, and for those who feel isolated and overwhelmed by the problems of the world. Luckily, there are simple, powerful ways of acting that can bring light to your neighbors and to yourself. We can all notice the pain and make small choices that help us experience and share light – by, for example, enjoying a cup of tea, smiling at strangers we meet or sending positive wishes to those in crisis. If you have time, you can volunteer, and if you have material resources, you can make specific donations. In our community, on a road that runs off of Union St, right behind the downtown Brunswick Hannaford, are three separate agencies that together provide a very helpful oasis of hope for those struggling across our region, and that rely on donations. Here’s some specific actions you can take during these cold months, and year-round, to support them in ways that benefit others and yourself.

If you have gently used clothes that are taking up space in your home, donate them to the Clothing Bank at the Seventh Day Adventist Community Services Center, the first building on the left that you come to when you enter from Union St, which gives them away for free to those in need. Imagine a young man or woman who is struggling to get back on their feet after an injury or family trauma receiving some nice shirts or the work shoes that they need to be successful at a job. To provide a lift to people in that and in many other situations, the Clothing Bank welcomes donations of clothes, coats, shoes and boots for men, women and children. It’s easy to share – there is a donation bin that sits right in front of the building that you can pull up to and leave items anytime. They also accept and give away small household items, like dishes and cookware. Drop these off when the Clothing Bank is open, Mondays from 4 – 5:45 pm and Wednesdays from 9:30 – 11:45 am and from 1 – 2:45 pm.

At the grocery store, pick up some ground coffee and drop it off at The Gathering Place, which is the second building on the left. You can know that you are contributing to a warm, safe, welcoming place where many people stop in and appreciate a free cup of coffee. Many senior citizens who struggle to get by on limited incomes can turn down the heat at home and enjoy companionship and a hot drink on these cold days. The coffee also warms those living in their cars and tents, those working at hard outside jobs or demanding retail jobs that do not pay enough to live on, and many others. The website lists other items that are needed and make a big difference to individuals – you can check out the Wish List at (or just google The Gathering Place, Brunswick). Bring in donations when we are open, Monday through Friday 8:30 – 3:00 pm and Saturdays 8:30 – 12:00 noon.

Next time you shop, get some extra peanut butter and donate it to Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program, which is the first building on your right, after you pass The Gathering Place. Every week, donations like these allow MCHPP to serve meals and provide bags of groceries to parents who struggle to make ends meet. By donating you are nourishing these families, and the many others who struggle – because of low wage jobs, limited incomes, physical limitations, disabilities, abuse and many other challenges – to have enough food. Signs clearly mark a back door to enter with donations, which are accepted Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn write in A Path Appears, their wonderful book about making an impact, that “to help others isn’t a heroic burden but a transcendent source of fulfillment in our busy, materialistic lives”. During this cold season, take one of these small steps, and experience more light in your life.

Mary O’Brien is a volunteer at The Gathering Place, and a civic engagement organizer. Giving Voice is a weekly collaboration among four local non-profit service agencies to share information and stories about their work in the community. 

Comments are not available on this story.