"360 boxes were moved before 12 noon" Erin tells me, as she compiles the multiple sheets and clipboards notating which towns folks arrived from. The official start time for this No-Cost Special Food Distribution was actually 12. She reads some of the towns listed outloud.
"Hartland, Bowerbank, Barnard, Jackman, Newport, Corinna, Exeter, Kingsbury, Wellington, Pittsfield, Williamsburg, Corinth, Milo, Brownville, Dexter, Ebeemee Township, Dover-Foxcroft, Ripley, Garland, LaGrange, Charleston, Cambridge, Parkman. And, we had multiple cars today picking up for multiple households."
"And the volunteers! They kicked butt." We had volunteers coming from Greenville to Bangor. Volunteers representing Northern Lights Mayo, United Way, and EMDC came to lend a hand. Foxcroft Academy students, Center Theatre's three Summer Americorops VISTA's also pitched in and were a lot of fun to have around.
"We probably did an average of two cars a minute", Steve says.
That's a lot of cars, a lot of households, and quite a distance to travel.
And if the amount of cars in such a short time isn't telling enough about our current social landscape, the gratitude and visible tears shed about receiving this kind of help might be.
Some folks who were receiving food boxes for the first time, stated they felt ashamed or embarrassed, and others expressed deep gratitude and appreciation.
PR Food Center's response? This is a human experience. Everyone needs help. Everyone has a right to food. Period.
Steve, in the midst of parking the large van says, "Volunteers kept telling me about all the people who were just amazed that they didn't have to prove their need. That no questions were asked. The disbelief was startling. It bothers me that people have to feel that way to get food. That it can't just be a normal thing."
Erin nods. "There's no shame in needing help."
We'd like to thank all of the volunteers who helped move food today, the Piscataquis County Ice Arena for sharing their parking lot, the USDA and Pineland Farms for the contents of the food box. And big, genuine, real, gratitude for folks coming through the line. Though the circumstances that brought folks in today are in fact a combination of elements, much of it systemic and absolutely unfortunate, the connection and genuine exchange of human-to-human today did feel like fortune. The more we offer mutual support systems in our communities, the more it becomes normal, the more it becomes habit and the less times you, a friend, or a stranger have to reflexively prove themselves or fight shame and stigma to get food.