May 21, 2018
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Bangor-area charities seeking donations as demand for help rising

By Alex Barber, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Volunteers at Manna Ministries Inc. gathered turkeys, potatoes and other traditional Thanksgiving fare in preparation for handing out 900 meals on Monday.

Manna and other area charities are seeing an increase in numbers of those asking for help, while contributions have been fewer.

“The guys that were bringing in 10 turkeys last year are bringing in five this year,” said Bill Rae, executive director of Manna. “The guys that were bringing in $100 last year are bringing in $25. I think it’s a very slow economy.”

Rae said Manna gave out 6,400 turkeys last year. This year, there’s demand for 6,700 turkeys.

“And that doesn’t include walk ups,” he said.

Rae said Manna is still seeking about 900 turkeys. The organization also needs stuffing, cranberry sauce and vegetables, but said they have plenty of potatoes.

“We need the basics,” said Rae. “Anything someone wants to put in a bag and bring by, we’ll give it to somebody.”

Capt. Tim Clark of The Salvation Army said he has seen more new faces looking for help this year. The Salvation Army helped between 550 and 600 families last year in the Bangor area.

“It looks like some of the people who needed help last year aren’t coming back, which is a good sign,” said Clark. “But we’ve also seen some people who are coming to us for the first time.”

Clark said the need moves in cycles as some people who needed help last year no longer need the extra help, while others have fallen on hard times.

“We had a woman who came in [Thursday] morning. She had lost her job and is now in a new job that pays far less than she’s had all her life,” said Clark. “She was embarrassed to be there. There’s no reason to be embarrassed. We want to put their minds at ease and say, ‘That’s why we’re here.’”

The Red Cross said it’s also down a bit on donations this year, but Regional Chief Development Officer Tammy Atwood said some of the problem is a rise in house fires this year.

“There’s an increased need. We’ve had many more fires [since July], and we’re actually over what we budgeted for financial assistance,” said Atwood, adding that the Red Cross responds to a fire in Maine every 32 hours on average.

Erin Sweeney, agriculture organizer for Food AND Medicine in Brewer, said the organization has been “really lucky this year in donations and support.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, donated $5,000 to Food AND Medicine over the weekend.

Clark said it’s too early to tell if donations will be up or down compared to last year as The Salvation Army started its red kettle drive on Saturday.

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