Updated: Aug 17, 2020
Holly and I enter the Milo Town Office to the sounds of moving boxes. Dawn tells us it's a busy morning. Today they expect to serve 30-40 families pre-packed food boxes in a drive-through style pick-up. Open boxes are strategically lined in rows along folding plastic tables where bustling volunteers bring various items of food. Dawn is helped by Shannon Fowles, Laurie Hanson, Jessica Atkinson, Joy Morriss, Val Robertson, Joel Vail, and Stacey Robichaud.
Dawn McLaughlin and dedicated crew have been doing this work ever since March, when the Covid-19 pandemic first hit and schools had to close. It's still Free Summer Meals, but adjusted to incorporate the needs and resources resulting from the pandemic.
Dawn is no stranger to the need for regular meals in the region. She expects to continue the pre-boxed program throughout the school year on Thursdays. During that distribution kids are able to "shop" and choose the items they take home. Teachers deliver the food boxes to families that have little to no transportation.
"I try and get food that kids can prepare"
Dawn holds up a box of Mac N Cheese as volunteers near her load up boxes with clementines and pasta. She orders her food directly from Good Shepherd Food Bank and participates with the USDA Farmers to Families food box program (which is also the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program). In addition, Dawn utilizes resources from her school program Jeans Blessings, that she moved to the town hall for the summer. She tells us that she's looking forward to having more fresh foods available next week.
I asked Dawn about her storage situation. She points to the kitchen area to the side of the large room they occupy currently. In the kitchen are three refrigerators and three freezers available to store food. The food deliveries usually come on Thursdays and the following Monday the crew gets together to pack and hand out.
Dawn wants to see parents and their children supported and nourished by the community, and when we told her that we hope she achieves her next goal, she didn't miss a beat before enthusiastically, but seriously, stating "It will happen. You know why? Because I'll make it happen. I won't let it go. I look at obstacles as challenges."
"I've got a big vision. I put feet to that."
And that couldn't be more true. When Dawn's kids were little she recalls scoping out buildings that might potentially suit for the kind of community dream Dawn envisions. She says it's a vision that includes a Big Brother Big Sister program, food distribution, clothing, and community meals when it's possible again.
Dawn has been feeding people for thirty-four years. As the Phys-Ed and Health Teacher at MSAD#41 she's spent a lot of time feeding people and connecting with families while working at the school.
"A network has been created. We know the needs of the community. If someone needs something they ask."
We're glad we had the chance to visit with Dawn to learn more about the Free Summer Meal Program at the Milo Town Office. The schedule of Free Summer Meals in our region is available on our Free Summer Meals Calendar.