Strong donations, new volunteers give struggling food bank hope for brighter 2013

Members of a Bath-area men's social group called the ROMEOs, or Retired Old Men Eating Out, recently donated $650 to the Bath Area Food Bank. Shown last week are Mark Smith (left) and Vincent Messler (right) of the ROMEOs along with Kimberly Gates, coordinator of the food bank.
Bath Area Food Bank
Members of a Bath-area men's social group called the ROMEOs, or Retired Old Men Eating Out, recently donated $650 to the Bath Area Food Bank. Shown last week are Mark Smith (left) and Vincent Messler (right) of the ROMEOs along with Kimberly Gates, coordinator of the food bank.
Posted Dec. 24, 2012, at 2:22 p.m.

BATH, Maine — Bolstered by the hiring of managers for the local soup kitchen and generous donations to help feed the hungry, the Bath Area Food Bank is rebounding from turbulent times it experienced during the summer.

Kimberly Gates, food bank coordinator, said individuals and businesses have stepped up in a big way to help the organization move out of trying times, and at the same time, to help those in need during the holiday season.

Last week, a local men’s social group called the ROMEOs donated $650. The ROMEOs — Retired Old Men Eating Out — is a long-standing group that meets monthly for lunch and socializing. Each of the 19 members contributes to a free-will fund that is donated to a Bath-area nonprofit organization annually. Gates said the food bank, which also supports the Bath Area Soup Kitchen, has benefitted from the ROMEOs’ generosity for three consecutive years.

“This money will be used immediately,” said Gates on Monday. “It costs us about $7,500 to stay open every month. Truthfully, the food bank is always lower than we’d like to see it.”

Students at Woolwich Central School also chipped in. On Friday they marched out of the school with more than 600 pounds of food they’d collected in recent days.

“I was blown away,” said Gates. “That all went right to the food pantry.”

Local businesses and organizations are among those helping, along with numerous private donations. The Chocolate Church Arts Center helped during its recent performances of “Scrooge” by deducting $5 per ticket for every child who brought in a food item.

And finally, four local families facing an austere Christmas will dine on whatever they want for free, thanks to The Bounty, a restaurant in the Holiday Inn at Bath. Gates said the restaurant is feeding four needy families on Christmas Day with no limits on what they order and no expectation of even a tip. She said The Bounty’s donation amounts to 19 free meals — including a family of eight.

Gates said the families were identified by local pastors, a school and through the food bank’s files.

“All they have to do is show up and eat everything they want off the menu,” said Gates. “There are no stipulations.”

The food bank’s soup kitchen, which serves free lunches three days a week at First Baptist Church, also is seeing brighter days. The soup kitchen had to close down for six weeks this past summer after its manager resigned and no one was able to step in immediately. An out-of-work chef ran the lunches for six weeks until he found another job.

Gates said two new volunteers have stepped up recently, and the turnout for lunch is back to normal.

Donations for the Bath Area Food Bank may be mailed to P.O. Box 65, Bath, ME 04530. For more information, email Director@BathFoodBank.org.

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