Teenagers during a previous Help Keep Our Neighbors Warm Fuel Rally in Scarborough. This year’s event will be curbside, located at 275 US Route 1, on Feb. 27, from 10 a.m. to noon. Courtesy photo Steffi Cox

SCARBOROUGH — Although the 2021 Keep Our Neighbors Warm Community Fuel Rally is going curbside, the spirit of Project GRACE, the event’s organizer, remains enthusiastic and optimistic.

The ninth annual community fuel rally will be taking place at the Scarborough Public Safety Building at 275 US Route 1 on Feb. 27, from 10 a.m. to noon, said a release from Project GRACE. The goal is to raise $15,000 for local fuel assistance, heating the homes for people in need.

Each year, Project GRACE teams up with local organizations and businesses for the rally, and this year is no exception, said Alberta Follansbee, president of the group. The Friends of the Scarborough Public Library, the Scarborough Lions Club, and SOPO Catering have all pitched in for the event’s respective activities, including a book sale, bottle drive, and offerings of chili and chowder.

“Even though we can’t stand around and talk with each other, we can still participate in some activities that are good for the community and make people happy and also hopefully raise a good amount of money for our fuel fund, which is the reason for the rally,” she said.

Each year, Eddie Woodin, president and owner of Woodin & Company Store Fixtures, Inc., promises to match donations with $2,500 if the goal is reached, he said. Corporate sponsors have already contributed to this year’s rally, he added in an email.

McDonald Family and Modern Woodmen Fraternal Financial give $2,500 to Keep Our Neighbors Warm Fuel Rally challenge. From left to right: Alberta Follansbee, Scott McDonald, Steffi Cox.  Courtesy photo Steffi Cox

A press release from Follansbee said, “It’s a big goal, but with support from the community, we’ve done it before. $2,500 is just about enough for 10 ‘helps’ of 100 gallons of oil, k1, propane, or firewood. $10,000 would allow Project GRACE to send out nearly 4,000 gallons of fuel to keep the furnace going for seniors and families who are having trouble making ends meet.”

Scarborough is pleased to host Project GRACE once again, said Town Manager Thomas Hall.

“The town is pleased to again partner with Project GRACE on the annual fuel rally and is particularly pleased to host it at our new Public Safety Building,” he said. “This is a great community event, and the generosity shown by our residents to support our neighbors in need is a reminder of how caring and thoughtful our community is.”

The community spirit makes the event fun, Follansbee said.

“We used to gather in the old public safety building, but what really warms it up is everyone coming together,” she said. “It’s so affirming and heartwarming to see people put on their winter clothes and come hang around in the garage with us on a cold Saturday morning.”

As the fuel rally has continued through the years, more Scarborough organizations and town departments have gotten involved, Follansbee said.

According to the Project GRACE website, partners this year include Scarborough Fire and Public Safety Departments, Scarborough Public Library, Scarborough Lions, Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center, Scarborough Historical Society, Scarborough Garden Club, Buy Local, Daisy Girl Scouts, Woodin & Co., Volunteers in Police Service, Town of Scarborough, Scarborough Rotary Club, Scarborough Kiwanis Club and SEDCO.

The inclusion of community partners makes Follansbee happy, showing how everyone can work at one common goal, she said.

“I often think of Project GRACE as a middle of a wheel, and we have all these community friends who are spokes, who come together with us to make something happen,” she said. “It’s humbling they trust us to be good stewards of the funds and of the events as well. A lot of the times we’re fortunate to be the beneficiary of a fundraiser.”

Steffi Cox, executive director of Project GRACE, said the neighbors-helping-neighbors group is coming up on its 20th anniversary.

“One thing that unites us is our love for our community, and a commitment to making sure Project GRACE can respond compassionately to a neighbor going through a tough time,” she said. “Volunteers like our board work quietly and unflaggingly behind the scenes to ensure that we have the funds but also, and as importantly, the steadfast community support to be an impactful agent for change in our town. We are keenly aware that we need each other to get through difficult times, including Maine’s cold winters, and that we are all enriched by caring about one another. We are stronger together.”

Cox recalled a time when she was living in a beach rental during a major snow storm and said she was surprised to see her neighbors and friends checking on one another and ensuring everyone was ok.

“It was easier getting through the storm knowing I wasn’t really alone, that if I needed to, I could turn to my neighbors for help,” she said. “It also felt good to pitch in and help shovel the front walk next door, be a part of the neighborhood. I think of Project GRACE that way, too — at some time or another we all give and receive, and we pitch in as we can to make sure the community as a whole is doing okay, capable and prepared to weather any storm, or pandemic, or whatever life brings our way.”

Follansbee said she first became involved in the organization as it was beginning to expand into what is now known as Project GRACE. A group of women wanted to buy Christmas gifts for people in need and soon realized that there were needs beyond the holidays, even year round.

Although the rally cannot be held in the traditional way, Follansbee hopes that people can “gather separately,” eating chili and chowder in their own homes on the same day, she said.

“I’m excited that we’re still, despite the circumstances, coming together to help our neighbors,” Follansbee said. “That’s a big deal, and it’s going to be different, but based on what’s happening so far, it looks like people are ok with that.”

Information about the rally can be found at fuelrally.weebly.com. People interested in giving to the fuel fund can check out projectgracemaine.weebly.com/giving.html.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: