As a husband, father and grandfather with a background in teaching and coaching, the holidays are a very important time for me. I understand what these days and moments can mean for a family and how the joy of spending time with family can carry a person through hard times.

Joe Rafferty Courtesy photo

When I worked as a teacher, I watched students return from the holidays ready to start anew. However, it breaks my heart to know that these cheerful moments are becoming more expensive – and harder to come by – for many families.

Many of you have noticed that inflation is up 15 percent across the food industry as a whole. According to the USDA, these increases are not going to stop.

While the price of turkeys is projected to go down for customers in their local grocery stores, this prediction is not the case for turkeys bought by shelters and food pantries. Food pantries have to buy from local stores and pay higher prices than the average consumer. This is an effort put in place by stores with the knowledge that if a customer is in the store, they will buy more products and create more revenue.

Community pantries and kitchens, like the York County Shelter Program, are relying on those who are able to give this season to step up to help. The York County Shelter Program averages 1,400 donation boxes between the winter holidays, and they need help to ensure they can met those numbers and the anticipated increase they will see this upcoming holiday season.

Our community is full of leaders. From parents on school committees and inspired students to church members – and everywhere in between. Families who rely on pantries, kitchens and shelters will not have the seasonal celebrations they may be accustomed to unless our leaders step up to inspire their peers to give. Fortunately, our community has a strong, proud tradition of giving to those in need, especially during the long Maine winter.


When gathering things to donate, think about the necessary ingredients to make the things you may be donating. For example, if you donate a box of macaroni and cheese look on the back of the box to see what other ingredients, like milk or butter, are required to actually make the macaroni. Otherwise, your donation may end up sitting on a shelf longer than you intended.

Those who know someone in need of shelter or food or is interested in donating to or hosting a turkey drive, can call York County Shelter Program at 207-324-1137 or email Russ Dillingham photo/Sun Journal

The “season of giving” is not just a catchphrase. It is a time for us to look at what we have and help ensure others are getting what they need. This year has been tough for so many, I do not want anyone to feel they need to reach beyond their family’s means to give. But if you can, I sincerely hope that you do.

I’m beyond thankful for this entire community. Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, North Berwick, Berwick and Wells have supported me and my endeavors representing this district in so many ways. I would be remise if I didn’t publicly thank my wife and daughters for keeping me grounded and humble through this process. I am looking forward to finding ways to give back to this community. As I write this today, my wife is in the next room planning a turkey drive to aid the York County Shelter Program. I’m so proud of her and grateful for her generous spirit.

If you or someone you know is in need of shelter or food or is interested in donating to or hosting a turkey drive, call York County Shelter Program at 207-324-1137 or email them at

Joseph Rafferty is a member of the Maine State Senate representing District 34, Berwick, Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, North Berwick and Wells. He can be reached at or 207-287-1515. Sign up an email newsletter at

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