Fewer people in Clifton, Holden, and Eddington will go hungry now, thanks to a unified community effort to establish a food pantry.

On Oct. 11, the group of dedicated volunteers and donors who helped establish the Clifton, Holden, and Eddington Food Support pantry at the Holbrook School gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The pantry has been operating since last spring in its brand new facility. The multipurpose building replaced the original athletic equipment shed. Upstairs is equipment storage and a concession stand; downstairs is the pantry. Proceeds from concessions sales will support the food pantry — and already have.

“This has been an amazing… community-based effort that started a long time ago,” said Principal Richard Modery, who spearheaded the project.

It began when Guidance Counselor Duffy Doiron and a group of about a dozen of her students, called the Holbrook Helpers, wanted to help others. They began by visiting elderly housing and nursing homes.

“The group just took off,” Doiron said. “They wanted to meet weekly, go places, do things for other people. It was fantastic. That energy in young people — you hate to not take advantage of that.”

The Holbrook Helpers later took up pet-supply collections for the Bangor Humane Society. Later, they purchased food to prepare and serve meals at the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter. That led to everyone wondering that if the members of the MSAD 63 community could do so much for people outside their community, what could it accomplish within it?

So Doiron made a call to Chuck and Belinda Lawrence, owners of the Tradewinds stores in Eddington, Blue Hill, and Milo, to ask if they had dented cans of food they couldn’t sell, and could they provide them for a food pantry?

“They called me back within 15 minutes with such an enormous financial donation,” Doiron said. “The amount that they donated to make this happen is just unbelievable.”

That contribution funded construction of the building. With plans in the works, the food pantry grew; in the meantime, Belinda Lawrence regularly delivered boxes of food to stock shelves in the guidance office. Construction began in fall 2011; in spring 2012, the pantry opened. Since then, it has served 35 families with 160 visits. It’s a great start, but Doiron said the work continues.

“There really are so many folks out there that need some help,” she said. “I’m not sure in the United States we should have anybody worrying about what they’re going to eat, but unfortunately that’s the reality. [It’s] pretty great that in this community we’re making a difference for a lot of people.”

That, Modery says, is a natural fit in a school system with core values that include kindness, compassion, responsibility, and respect — values demonstrated by the volunteers who shop for food, stock the shelves, and staff the pantry. The pantry is a member of the Good Shepherd Food Bank, which provides food at reduced costs; with no paid staff, donations to CHEFS stretch far.

“One hundred percent of those donations go directly to folks that need it,” Modery said.

For Chuck Lawrence, the decision for him and his wife to help make the project happen was an easy one. They’ve worked at food pantries in Ellsworth and Blue Hill, and have been in the community for 20 years.

“We’ve been fortunate enough to have good businesses and success, and we just feel like we need to take care of our neighbors,” he said. “I think, in order to take care of everybody, that everybody that has the ability needs to step up and either contribute some financial support, some groceries, [or] some time.”

Lawrence says it’s perfect to locate CHEFS on the school property.

“What a role model to our children,” he said.

Lawrence is quick to downplay his financial contributions, pointing to the huge amount of sweat equity by community volunteers who worked hard to build the facility and launch CHEFS.

“It does take a whole community to pull something like this off,” he said. “I think what better example to our students also that a community is supporting each other.”

“It’s been a team effort,” Doiron said. “Just a bunch of people wanting the same thing and making it happen. And it can be that simple if a group of people all want the same thing.”

Monetary donations can be sent to CHEFS, c/o Holbrook School, 202 Kidder Hill Road, Holden, Maine, 04429A. If you need food, CHEFS is open for food pick-ups on Thursday from 7 to 8 p.m. and every other Sunday from 9 to 10 a.m. If you’d like to donate food, contact the school.

Questions? Contact Principal Modery at rmodery@sad63.org or 843-7769.