PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — From monetary donations and recycling to gardening and participating in the annual Light Parade, Catholic Charities officials found many ways to “Feed the County” as 2013 came to a close.
“Trinity Lodge 130, located in Presque Isle, made a donation recently to Catholic Charities to help us feed those in need,” said Dixie Shaw, director of Catholic Charities’ Feed the County program.
Milt Smith, a 33rd degree member and secretary of the Masonic chapter, was joined by his son, Derik Smith, a 32nd degree member, TPM, for the presentation. To mark the 200th anniversary of the northern Scottish Rite, a check for $2,000 was presented to Shaw.
“We’re members of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, NMJ, Valley of Aroostook, which was formed in 2009. There are eight lodges in the district: Fort Kent, Caribou, Washburn, Limestone, Presque Isle, Mars Hill, Houlton and Ashland,” said Milt Smith.
He said the decision was made to put the money toward helping others, rather than a celebration marking the anniversary.
“For the 200th anniversary, the council overseeing the group in the state decided instead of a party, $2,000 would be donated to a food bank of our choice,” said Milt Smith.
“Catholic Charities fills the needs of Aroostook County residents the best,” added Derik Smith.
According to the Smiths, the Scottish Rite “seeks to strengthen the community and believes that each man should act in civil life according to his individual judgment and the dictates of his conscience.”
In making the donation, they believe they’re living up to this statement.
“When we sat down to discuss where the money would go, many members acknowledged they went to churches with food pantries that received food through Catholic Charities. It made perfect sense that this would be the best use of the funds,” said Milt Smith.
Shaw said the money is very much appreciated.
“We serve all of Aroostook County, through 25 facilities that distribute food to those in need. We’re the only food bank north of Brewer,” said Shaw.
Shaw said donations are always welcome, since the need for food is ongoing.
“The local Walmart provided a ton of fresh food in 2013, and we began growing our own in the garden we established last summer on the Chapman Road in Chapman, thanks to the Pritchards allowing us use of a parcel of land. We had beets, squash and turnips that we harvested this fall and had processed by Northern Girl in Van Buren,” said Shaw.
She said local farmers have been good at providing fresh potatoes and broccoli whenever possible, so the garden was used to produce other crops that had longer shelf life.
“We collected 10 watermelon totes of turnips this harvest. We had to fight the weather to thin and tend the crop in our 1-acre plot. We skipped on the carrots, deeming them not cost-effective. We focused on root crops that were easy to process and store,” said Shaw.
Earlier in the fall, Shaw held an “e-Trash Day” fundraiser, in cooperation with Electronics’ End of Brewer, a company that recycles a variety of electronics.
“Our e-Trash Day was a huge success, thanks to everyone who came out and made a monetary donation. We raised over $1,200 to help put food on people’s tables that need our help. And look at all the trash that was collected to be hauled away and disposed of properly and recycled. Thank you, Aroostook County folks, for all you do for us, and thank you, Bruce and Randy, from Electronics’ End, for carting TVs, computers and more away,” she said.
Shaw said she’d like to make this a semi-annual event.
“We’d like to do this at least a couple times a year, spring and fall most likely — perhaps moving them around to our other locations, like Caribou or Monticello next time. What a great way to reduce trash and recycle unwanted items, while raising funds to help others,” said Shaw. “I had no idea how it would go but man, it was a good one!”
Shaw said feeding the hungry is a never-ending cycle.
“Please keep us in mind, whether you’re cleaning closets to fit your new Christmas gifts or buying groceries and can pick up an extra can of something. We accept donations at our three facilities: Presque Isle, Caribou and Monticello. From housewares to clothes, toys and books, your unwanted items help Feed The County,” said Shaw.