Kennebec retired educators provide necessities

Pictured from left to right, Pastor Mark Wilson, Gail Morris, Carl Daiker, and Lora Downing organize items and volunteer in the Essentials Closet, located at the First Congregational Church, Eustis Parkway, Waterville. Contributed photo

‘Tis the season for giving, and educators certainly know the truth of that statement as they choose to spend their lives serving thousands of needy students throughout Maine.

Members of Kennebec Retired Educators Association (KREA) and Kappa Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma International recently donated a variety of items and funds to The Waterville Essentials Closet at the Waterville First Congregational Church on Eustis Parkway, Waterville.

Pastor Mark Wilson explained, “A few years ago our church sought the alignment of God’s dream for our church in our community and how we could help the needy the most. After meeting with community leaders, it was noted that we have the local soup kitchen, evening sandwich program, the food pantry, and homeless shelter.

“However, in none of those places are people able to obtain the essential items – laundry detergent, toilet paper, dish detergent, shampoo, paper towels, tissues, bath soap, feminine hygiene products, toothbrushes, diapers, baby wipes, and toothpaste.

“We find that people really appreciate the laundry detergent and shampoo, although young families are always looking for diapers,” explained Lora Downing, director of the program with her husband Pete of Sidney. “These items cannot be purchased with EBT cards and state assistance programs.”

The program depends on 20 volunteers, “and we are always looking for more,” says Lora. Volunteer Carl Daiker, of Waterville, says he greets the patrons when they walk in the front door and logs their names and contact information. They are then directed to another volunteer who is in charge of distributions.

“We are hopeful,” says Carl, “when we do not see a patron returning month after month to the closet. To us, that could be a sign that the patron’s situation has changed to the point where they no longer need the assistance provided by the Essentials Closet. I know that working as a volunteer gives me a good feeling and a sense of contributing to the welfare of my community.”

Pastor Wilson noted that the church also offers the Evening Sandwich Program, Laundry Quarters, Reading Changes Lives, and other ministries that have “helped to transform our church to a more outward-facing mission stance of being the church in action serving others.”

The Essentials Closet is open the last two weeks of every month—Mondays, 5 to 7 p.m. and Wednesday and Friday from 9 to 11 a.m. “We have served more than 900 people and average about 200 people per month from all over Central Maine,” said Lora.

KREA represents retired educators from 60 schools in 31 cities and towns in Kennebec County. KREA President George Davis of Skowhegan cites the generosity of members who “donate funds to local charitable agencies in two of our six meetings each year.”

Donations to the Essentials Closet may be dropped off at the church office Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon. For more information interested folk may call the church at 872-8976.


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