Everything that Maine Needs does is a crowd-sourced grassroots effort, including its first Art for Opportunity auction Sept. 27 at Apres in Portland.

A donor suggested an art auction as a fundraiser, Maine Needs put out a call for art on social media, and 83 artists donated a total of 92 pieces, including paintings, drawings, photography and ceramics.

“Breweries and other places have fundraised for us, but this is the first fundraiser we’ve run,” said board treasurer Madeline Backman of Yarmouth. “The response was overwhelming with artists from all over Maine sharing incredible work. Apres donated the space, and every dollar will go directly to fund sleeping bags and tents for people who are unhoused, kitchen essentials for people being newly housed, and so forth.”

The auction was open to the public – no tickets required – with bids also accepted virtually.

“We wanted to have a price point where anyone could participate,” said Kaleigh Anderson, chief operating officer.

Even with no ticket sales and no minimum bids, Art for Opportunity raised $20,000.


“Hopefully this is something that we can do annually,” said board president Carrie Hemmelgarn. “It has been breathtaking to see the creativity in the Maine community.”

Maine Needs became an official nonprofit in October 2020 and opened a free community donation center on Forest Avenue in Portland. In September 2021, it doubled in size. Case workers working with anyone with basic material needs – including children, asylum seekers and refugees, domestic abuse survivors and people leaving incarceration – make requests. Volunteers match donations with those requests, filling orders.

“Case managers tell us specific clothing sizes so we’re really filling the need,” said Susan Hanley, a volunteer and contributing artist from Freeport. “And we do kitchenware, linens and those sorts of things for people living in encampments, shelters and motels.”

Artist Lorien Rain of Portland used to work with Creative Trails, helping adults with disabilities volunteer at Maine Needs. “When I left that job, the call for art popped up the same day and I felt like it was a sign for me to commit,” she said. “I painted a piece that is about giving and receiving care and accepting care when you need it.”

Maine Needs has distributed 6,000 sleeping bags or tents, 15,000 cleaning and toiletry kits including everything from toothpaste to trash bags, and nearly 8,000 mini warm kits with items such as hard warmers, tissues, chapstick and band-aids.

“We’re entering our busiest season, supplying tents, sleeping bags and warm kits for people sleeping outside,” said Communications Director Tara Balch. “And so many people are going without basic everyday cleaning supplies, like body wash and shampoo.”

For specifics on donating kits, gift cards or specific gently used items, go to maineneeds.org. Maine Needs is also planning a holiday giftables auction for early November, and custom Sea Bags and Baggus sold during Art for Opportunity will be available.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at amyparadysz@gmail.com.

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