By Brian Swartz
Weekly Staff Editor
BREWER — Join the SOS for Hunger campaign this month and help feed homeless neighbors in the Bangor area.
On Thursday, June 6, employees at Schooners Seafood & Steakhouse, located at 5 South Main St. in Brewer, launched a monthlong “SOS for Hunger” campaign to provide food items for the Greater Bangor Homeless Shelter. The campaign will culminate with restaurant staffers cooking and serving a hot meal to shelter residents on Sunday, June 30.
According to Schooners Manager Mason Tripp, “the original idea came from Camille Cramer,” a Schooners’ bartender and waitress. Earlier this spring “she asked me if there was something we can do for the community,” he said.
During her three years as the Key Club president at Penquis Valley High School in Milo, Cramer learned quite a bit about performing community service; she took that interest with her to the University of Maine, where she is a business management student.
In college “I wasn’t sure what outlet I could pursue” in terms of community service, Cramer said.
Thinking about Schooners, she realized that “it’s really a close-knit family group here that all have incredibly generous hearts.” Cramer wondered how the Schooners’ staff could perform community service.
She and Tripp discussed organizing a food drive to benefit the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter, located at 263 Main St., Bangor; Cramer has dropped off items there in the past.
The Bangor Area Homeless Shelter has a “strong level of demand” for food items, said Executive Director Dennis Marble. “We serve three meals” a day, “35,000 meals a year, both to the people who stay here and the members of the public who stop in for a meal.”
Certified for 38 beds, the BAHS serves “around 500 different people [annually] in overnight shelter,” he said. Residents range in age from 18 to 80. The shelter staff relies almost solely on donated food items — and also on the volunteers who prepare those foods and serve meals to shelter residents. A few hundred volunteers help with the meals each year, Marble indicated.
At Schooners Seafood & Steakhouse, O’Donnell and Tripp concurred that a summer food drive would be best. “June is a great time [for a food drive] because everyone donates in the holiday season, and the food pantries are probably getting low” this time of year, Tripp said.
The food drive is also being sponsored by the Bangor Daily News and Dennis Paper & Food Service.
Cramer emailed Courtney O’Donnell, the homeless shelter’s administrative assistant and volunteer coordinator. After meeting with several Schooners employees at the restaurant, Cramer came away pleased with their enthusiasm; “they had a plan, and they knew what they wanted to do,” Cramer said.
To spur public interest in SOS for Hunger, “we came up with a guest incentive to spread the word” about the food drive, Tripp said.
Each diner who brings at least three nonperishable food items to Schooners in June will receive a slip “good for $2 off an entrée” served at lunch or dinner, Tripp said. “We figure our customers who bring in food items are probably spending at least a few dollars on them; this is our way of thanking them for helping our neighbors.”
Tripp said that “we are looking for food items that can make a meal.” Particularly needed food items are bottled water, Gatorade and Kool-Aid mixes, macaroni and cheese, pasta, Ramen noodles and soups.
The food drive will culminate in a specially prepared meal that will be donated by Dennis Paper for serving to Bangor Area Homeless Shelter residents and staffers at 5 p.m., Sunday, June 30. According to Tripp, “the [Schooners] kitchen staff will prepare the food, and we’ll bring it over” to the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter, where some members of the restaurant’s wait staff will help serve the meal.
“We are looking for it to be a big event,” Cramer said. She hopes that Schooners will be able to hold a similar food drive next year and also support other community service projects.
Marble appreciates the assistance being provided by Schooners and other Bangor-area businesses. “We only get to do what we do through local support,” he said. “Schooners is an excellent example” of such support.