CALAIS, Maine — Even little boys have big hearts.
Seven young boys are seeking to raise money to help pay for an addition to the Irene Chadbourne Ecumenical Food Pantry, which needs more space for its aging building.
The food pantry, which currently is serving about 400 families, needs more space, according to Art Carter, vice president of the organization after serving as president for 10 years. It provides food to people from Calais, Alexander, Baring, Charlotte, Cooper, Crawford and Robbinston. A family typically can rely on the pantry to provide food for 24 meals per month.
“We need to expand the building,” explained Carter last week, in order to have more room for deliveries and a waiting area for clients.
The food pantry does business out of a house on Main Street that was built in 1844. Food is stacked on shelves in various rooms, some of which also have refrigerators and freezers. It can be a tight squeeze getting around.
A 20-by-30-foot addition will cost about $30,000, according to Carter, mainly for materials and the exterior construction work. Much of the interior work, such as installing insulation, sheetrock and painting, will be done by volunteers.
The fundraising campaign was kicked off with a $1,500 donation from Pratt Chevrolet. The food pantry has about $4,000 so far.
Enter Kobe Saunders, 10, who lives next door with his parents. His mother, Jayna Smith, learned about the food pantry’s need for an addition and the fundraising campaign and discussed it with her son. He decided to ask six buddies, all in grade four at Calais Elementary School, to help raise $1,000. The boys have been soliciting donations from family and friends, and, with help from their families, have posted some videos on Facebook to publicize the cause. In addition, they will be holding a bake sale at Marden’s March 22, and the mother of one will coordinate a bottle drive.
“That’s a very attainable goal” for the boys to shoot for, said Smith last week, and hopefully their efforts will stimulate other individuals, businesses and organizations to contribute. She helped enlist the participation and support of families of his friends: Jarrod McDonald, Zachary Wentworth, Zachary Bridges, Ti Bennett, Tristan Seavey and Owen Brown.
Kobe’s friends paid him a visit Friday, and the boys traipsed next door to meet Carter and tell him what they were doing. Carter gave them a tour of the food pantry and explained its operations.
“Well, we’re trying to raise money for the food pantry because they need an expansion because so many people go,” explained Kobe, talking about the project at his home on Friday. “Their goal is $30,000, and we’re trying to raise at least a thousand.”
His mother helped spread the word by contacting via Facebook the families of his friends, and he talked to them about it at school. “They were all in on it,” he said.
Although some surplus food is supplied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the food pantry also obtains food from the Auburn-based Good Shepherd Food-Bank. It also receives food donated by two local groceries, Walmart and Shop ‘n Save, “which has really been a godsend this year,” said Carter. Schools, civic clubs, the post office and other organizations and agencies also contribute food to the food bank, which also accepts cash donations.
The food pantry, which began operating as a cooperative ministry of five churches in 1993, offers two other programs to help people. The school backpack program provides a package of food that a youngster can take home; it contains food to help feed a family for the weekend. “It’s a shock to me,” said Carter, how much that program has grown. It is now serving about 85 families.
Another program provides assistance to needy families to help them purchase heating oil or other fuel. The heating assistance program is a cooperative effort with the Salvation Army. “We have a waiting list right now of 15 families” that need heating assistance, said Carter, but more funds are needed.
The pantry is open from 3 to 8 p.m. Monday and 10 a.m. to noon Thursday. Donations may be mailed to: P.O. Box 1005, Calais, Maine, 04619.