Aroostook County woodworker Terry Kelly is offering French-style rolling pins in exchange for donations to a local soup kitchen. Credit: Courtesy of Terry Kelly

Up Beat is a new section of the Bangor Daily News dedicated to uplifting stories. Look for tales of people helping people and things that will make you smile.

A few weeks ago, furniture craftsman Terry Kelly was cleaning out his storage space in preparation for setting up a chair-making workshop in his home garage. As he worked, he came across a pair of French-style rolling pins he’d made years ago. Since the discovery was a few days before Mother’s Day, he decided to post photos of the rolling pins on his Facebook page and offer them for free to whoever wanted them for their moms or for their own use.

The response was overwhelming and the Presque Isle craftsman realized he’d hit upon a way to create something people could use and do some community good at the same time. Kelly is making more rolling pins, and instead of selling them outright, he’s giving them to people in return for the recipient sending a donation to the Martha and Mary’s Kitchen, which serves around 100 free meals a day, three times a week, to families and people in need.

“A friend of mine in New York state used to do this thing where he carved wooden spoons, and the proceeds went to a non-profit,” Kelly said. “That always seemed like a cool idea.”

But carving wooden spoons was a bit more of an intensive project than Kelly was looking for.

“I was looking for something I could make quick and not require a lot of materials,” Kelly said. “Rolling pins are perfect.”

Kelly’s French-style rolling pin is a simple wooden cylinder with one tapered end and no handles. People who use that style for shaping pie crusts, cookie dough, pizza crusts and other pastries swear by them, saying the lack of handles makes them more versatile.

The timing is also perfect for his project, Kelly said.

“I had been working in carpentry but got laid off due to COVID-19 so was turning my garage into a chair making shop,” he said. “I have plenty of time on my hands and I’ve seen so many people in quarantine getting into baking I figured there would be a need for rolling pins.”

At the same time, Maine’s food pantries and soup kitchens have seen a spike in demand as unemployment hit record levels in the state due to businesses scaling back or closing due to the pandemic.

“We have seen a 35 percent increase across the state of people coming to the food banks and kitchens,” Kristen Miale, president of the Good Shepherd Food Bank, said “We could not be doing the work we do without the help of Mainers who thankfully always come out to support us.”

The Good Shepherd Food Bank does not work directly with the Martha and Mary’s Kitchen, but Miale said it is thanks to the charitable work of the people who operate that kitchen, Aroostook County people in need have somewhere to turn.

“I started thinking, ‘Why not do something that gives back to the community?’” Kelly said. “Making something that people could use for baking seemed like it would dovetail nicely in raising money for Martha and Mary’s.”

Miale said it’s the efforts like Kelly’s that keep food banks and kitchens across Maine operational.

“I think it is fabulous,” Miale said. “We are the beneficiaries of the good works people are doing around the state to help feed Mainers in need, and all [food kitchens in Maine] rely on this kind of community support.”

In addition to supporting his local food kitchen, Kelly also plans to turn the project into some quality time with his 14-year-old daughter and pass on his own skills and love of woodworking.

“I want to teach my daughter how to turn and shape wood,” Kelly said. “This would be a great way for her to learn how to make something with her hands.”

Kelly does not know how much his project has raised so far, but to date he’s made and shipped out 20 of his rolling pins, and he’s confident it’s helping the food kitchen.

“People are getting something out of this and it is spurring them on to donate to the food pantry,” he said. “Those [food pantries] are really struggling right now, and I want to help.”

Do you know of an uplifting story in Maine? Bangor Daily News Features writer Julia Bayly is on the lookout for Up Beat stories of people, places or things that bring smiles and laughter to your day. Her email address is jbayly@bangordailynews.com.

Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.