CALAIS – Unlike other holidays, Thanksgiving is just what it says it is, it is about saying thanks and about giving.
And that is what students enrolled in Instructor Rhonda French’s Supervisory Management Class at Washington County Community College are doing.
Alecia McIver, a second year Business Management student, and Victoria Webber, also a second year student with a double major in ¬Business Management and Adventure Recreation, along with four other students, are spearheading the 4th Annual Stuffing Drive.
It is all part of the 2013 Solidarity Harvest, a group based out of Brewer. The students and the Brewer group hope to provide 1,000 families from Washington County and elsewhere in their coverage area with a full Thanksgiving dinner.
“They provide turkey, stuffing and pies and rolls and anything you can think of to families,” Webber said. “Our goal is to raise 600 boxes of stuffing.” And that is just for Washington County. Last year students donated 500 boxes.
As part of last year’s food drive, Solidarity House received more than 2,000 boxes of stuffing from all over its coverage area. To be a part of this year’s fund raiser, the stuffing has to be dropped off at the college or placed in boxes located around the city by Nov. 22.
The Solidarity Harvest began in 2003 during a period in Maine history when local paper mills were being shut down and employees laid-off. After looking at options, the group decided to provide food baskets for families. They began with around 100 families but that number continued to grow and in 2012 the group handed out upwards of 1,000 baskets.
The philosophy behind Solidarity Harvest is that the food provided is not charity, but “solidarity,” “Charity usually involves pity and paternalistic attitudes towards those who are in need. Solidarity, on the other hand, is about helping those in need with understanding and without denigration,” the group’s fact sheet said.
McIver said the WCCC collection boxes will be located in the front lobby in Riverview Hall and in the Igloo Lounge. “For WCCC students there will be a contest. Whoever brings in the most stuffing boxes gets one of two $25 gift cards,” she said.
Those individuals who would rather not donate stuffing can make a cash donation to Solidarity Harvest.
The two students said that Penny Theriault, a childcare provider for nearly three decades and operator of Lots of Tots Childcare in Princeton, has been a part of the Solidarity Harvest for the past few years. Earlier this year she spoke to their class and talked about how Solidarity House works Down East. “That got us really pumped,” she said.
Theriault said she has help from the youngsters in her childcare center who are eager to be a part of the fundraiser. She said they built a large turkey out of a cardboard box and they regularly feed it with donations. “Some days the turkey gets overfed and some days it gets nothing,” she said.
The two students said Theriault’s appeal tugged at their hearts. Webber, who is from Morrill, said she was from a family of 12 and often her family received a donated box from various groups. “It was awesome and also it helped out,” she said.
McIver said she was from a big family in Calais and although her family never received a Thanksgiving donation, she said her father knows of families in the area who ended up having household members laid off from their jobs and in need of help.
Although Solidary Harvest’s office is in Brewer, a lot of the food donated returns to Washington County. “They travel from there to Lincoln then to Brookton and Topsfield, all the way down,” Webber said.
The Solidarity Harvest is spearheaded by the nonprofit group Food and Medicine who have partnered with other groups to make the event a success. Last year they celebrated their 10th anniversary of providing Thanksgiving meals to area residents.
In 2013, WCCC was named one of “America’s Top 50 Community Colleges” by Washington Monthly. The college was named number 24 out of 700 community colleges nationwide.