There was a reason Spurwink’s annual Humanitarian of the Year award presentation was followed by a 1980s dance party inspired by the Wang Chung hit “Everybody Have Fun Tonight.” With an underlying theme of inclusivity, the emphasis was on “everybody.”

A nonprofit that strives to serve any Mainer with a behavioral need, Spurwink featured its special education schools that have waitlists and fundraised to get more students in sooner. About 240 people attended the April 26 event at the University of New England in Portland, raising $200,000 for Spurwink programs.

Spurwink’s choice for the 2024 Humanitarian of the Year was Maine Needs founder Angela Stone, an interior designer and mother of three who figured out how to crowd-source philanthropy to make a safety net for anybody and everybody.

It was the plight of asylum-seeking mothers in 2018 that first got Stone’s attention. She met with Maine Access Immigrant Network to find out what things these moms needed, then met with local moms groups to ask for donations.

“Very quickly, we learned that the focus on getting immigrant families what they needed easily crossed over into helping local Maine families,” Stone said. “We created a support network for caseworkers, teachers and nurses to get what they needed. In helping asylum-seeking mothers, we ended up helping Maine families, veterans and the unhoused. We are all interconnected, and our basic human needs are the same. Not just our material resource needs like soap, warm bedding, clothing that fits, and housewares to prepare food, but also our need to be safe, to be understood, to be respected, our need to connect and live our life with purpose.”

Maine Needs, now a nonprofit organization with a warehouse on Forest Avenue, has distributed thousands of items of clothing, shoes, coats, tents, sleeping bags, kitchen sets and toys, plus several types of thoughtfully assembled “kits” for people who have fallen on hard times. One of the newer requests is bus passes.

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The power of what Maine Needs has accomplished goes far beyond the typical donation drives.

“What Angela has done is give 43,000 members of our community and thousands of volunteers the opportunity to invest in the community good,” said Spurwink board chair Al Raymond. “She has given a means by which all of us collectively can also be humanitarians.”

For more about Maine Needs and how to contribute, go to maineneeds.org.

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


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