HERMON, Maine — Though founded less than two years ago, the Neighbors Supporting Neighbors Community Pantry has big plans for helping people in need in its five-town service area.
The pantry program, which serves residents of Hermon, Carmel, Levant, Etna and Dixmont, opened in 2008 in the former Northern Maine Junction Market building on Route 2 in Hermon.
The building, however, was sold, leaving the pantry without a headquarters, director Carol Lackedy said.
Despite the loss of its headquarters, the food pantry continues to operate out of a temporary site on the first and third Thursday of each month, Lackedy said.
“Right now, we are feeding people out of the Penobscot Snowmobile Club [on Bog Road],” she said. Because the building is being loaned to the group, volunteers must lug food and other goods from two storage areas elsewhere to the snowmobile club and then put whatever is left back into storage.
Lackedy and fellow food pantry volunteer Lisa Smith, also of Hermon, hope that will change in the near future.
In a recent interview Lackedy and Smith said the town of Hermon has set aside a 1.5-acre parcel at the top of Billings Road hill.
The volunteers’ dream is to use that land to build a facility — an energy-efficient “green” complex -—that would house:
ä A food pantry and soup kitchen.
ä Rooms for kitchenware, furniture, appliances and other items available for those who need them.
ä Three efficiency units, each of which could accommodate up to four people at a time.
ä An outdoor kennel area for pets.
ä An activity room where visitors and volunteers could play games, hold sewing and knitting nights, and other activities.
But first, Lackedy said, the group needs to have the complex designed, clear the land and install the necessary infrastructure, including a well and septic system.
“We’re hoping that we can find businesses in the community that can help us with that,” ideally for free or at a discount.
Hermon Town Manager Clinton Deschene is among the local officials who have worked with the food pantry volunteers and support their work.
“They are a very hardworking, motivated group that has a vision that would benefit area towns,” he said.
“We’ve never been able to run a full-time food pantry [as a municipal operation] but we’ve been able to support them,” he said, adding that the town usually appropriates $2,500 a year toward Neighbors Supporting Neighbors’ operations.
He said town councilors agreed to provide the land once the group meets its fundraising goals because the proposed complex would be a “good use for the town, a good benefit for residents.”
Danforth’s Down Home Supermarket in Hermon also has been a big help, Lackedy and Smith said.
“It’s a win-win for both of us,” store manager Scott Goodspeed said Friday. “It’s stuff that we can’t sell in the store because its just past its expiration date but still perfectly good or because the cans are dented.”
“It’s something that works out for us because at least somebody is able to take advantage of it rather than us having to throw it away.
Goodspeed also noted that the program serves people in towns that are part of the store’s customer base.
Neighbors Supporting Neighbors hopes to raise funds for its work through a large indoor yard sale set for Saturday, Sept. 4, at the Brewer Eagles Club at 22 Atlantic Ave. The event will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., or earlier if everything sells out before then.
Lackedy said the group has received enough donated items to fill an 18-wheeler to the top, “plus more. We have everything from furniture to household items and everything in between.”
Students from the Penobscot Job Corps Academy have volunteered to help unload the items, she said. She added that she hopes other nonprofit groups, such as The Salvation Army or Goodwill, will collect any leftover items.
For an admission fee of $5, shoppers can purchase as much as they can carry to their vehicles. No boxes, strollers or carts are allowed.
For information or to help, call Lackedy at 299-5186 or reach her by e-mail at Lackedyc@fc.husson.edu.