FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine — For the second straight year, the actions of a local Teamsters union have worked to stave off hunger for needy Aroostook County families.
South Portland-based Teamsters Local 340, through its Women’s Committee, conducted a massive two-day statewide food drive beginning July 16 to benefit Catholic Charities Maine in Caribou. The event wrapped up July 17 during the 63rd annual Potato Blossom Festival parade.
As part of the effort, a tractor-trailer drove from Kittery to Fort Fairfield, making close to a dozen stops along the way so that members of Teamsters Local 340 could fill it with nonperishable food donations.
The final stop was in Fort Fairfield, where the truck rolled along in the Maine Potato Blossom parade, with Teamsters members and representatives from Catholic Charities of Maine collecting canned goods and donations along the parade route.
Teamsters Local 340 has close to 4,000 members.
Through its Caribou-based food bank, Catholic Charities Maine stocks 24 food pantries throughout Aroostook County. The organization helped 32,686 people in 2007, 33,244 in 2008 and 40,262 in 2009, according to statistics from the Teamsters.
Traci Place, a business agent for the union, said Monday that this year’s effort netted 30,000 pounds of food for Catholic Charities Maine, plus $1,244 in monetary donations.
The food was taken immediately from the parade route to the Catholic Charities Maine warehouse in Caribou.
“We really did have a successful effort this year, and we are so grateful to everyone who helped us make this the success that it was,” Place said. “When the truck got to Aroostook County before the parade and I opened the doors of the trailer, I was just stunned when I saw how much food had been collected already.”
Place said that the union was not sure how successful the drive was going to be this year, but hoped at least to match the 25,000 pounds of food and $860 in donations it collected during last year’s initiative.
“It was evident even before the parade that we were going to meet our goal,” said Place. “We got the word out about the project much better this year, and it seemed like nearly everyone along the parade route was holding out canned goods to be collected as we came along. We saw a lot of money in people’s hands as well. It was really astounding to see that a lot of people had dropped $20 bills into our collection bags. That was remarkable.”
Place said that she and the other Teamsters are happy that the drive has been so successful.
“Catholic Charities of Maine has a tough job,” she said. “They have to provide enough food for needy families in Aroostook County, a region larger than Connecticut and Rhode Island combined. That’s a tough job and I’m glad we could be a part of making it easier.”