FORT KENT, Maine — For six years, Denise Cote has organized the Hope for the Holidays food drive as a way to stock the cupboards of seven food pantries in the St. John Valley.
When one of the major sponsors pulled out this year, Cote was worried that the effort wasn’t going to be as successful. She was wrong.
During one of its most successful years, the initiative has secured more than 10,000 pounds of food for pantries in Eagle Lake, Fort Kent, Sinclair, St. Agatha, Madawaska, Grand Isle and Van Buren.
Cote is the marketing director for NorState Federal Credit Union, which co-sponsors the event along with Channel X Radio. The annual event started in 2004 when Cote was working for the St. John Valley Times.
“Over the years, it has grown and grown,” Cote said earlier this week. “It has become a recognized holiday project that people always ask me about, and they look around for the sites where they can donate food.”
The tough economic times have driven more people to seek help from local food pantries. It also has meant that fewer people can donate cash and nonperishable goods to these local sites.
But Cote said that people in the St. John Valley always come through for the pantries, and this year was no exception.
“This food drive is very dependent on the generosity of the people who live and work in the St. John Valley, have roots here or who genuinely care about making a difference in the lives of people who are hungry,” said Angele Bourgoin, the ending hunger coordinator for Norstate FCU. “They are the true meaning of generosity.”
Some anonymous donors contributed time, money or hundreds of pounds of locally grown produce, she said.
Channel X Radio and NorState FCU each gave financial assistance to the drive to make it successful, Cote said.
She said that she and officials from some of the local pantries were concerned when the St. John Valley Times was unable to be a sponsor this year.
“We were worried that we wouldn’t be able to garner as much food, but everyone pulled together and the result was fantastic,” she said.
Though the initiative ended on Dec. 15, Cote said that food and monetary donations are still coming in.
“We will keep accepting things right through the new year,” she said.
If you want to contribute toward the Hope for the Holidays Food Drive, checks can be mailed to: NorState FCU c/o Hope for the Holidays Food Drive, 78 Fox St., Madawaska 04756. You also can call 728-7555 for information on how to make a food or monetary donation.