FARMINGTON — The University of Maine at Farmington Thrifty Beaver and local communities are reaching out to UMF students who may need a little extra this year to help make ends meet. The Thrifty Beaver is a student-run campus food pantry and co-op whose mission is to help provide food and other essentials to students in need.

With the holidays fast approaching, several UMF faculty, staff and alumni wanted to make sure students still in the area had the food they needed to stay healthy. They collected donations and used them to purchase 60, $20 gift cards at Food City, the local grocery store, which helped stretch the donation amount with a generous discount.

Joining the effort, the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce donated another 10 gift cards from the Gerry Wiles Holiday Food Basket Program, a longstanding food drive named in honor of Gerry Wiles, a local resident known for his charitable work in the community.

“The Gerry Wiles Food Basket Program is in its 10th year. The Chamber received monetary donations from 84 area businesses and individuals. The support was overwhelming this year, as was the need. Two significant contributions were received from the UMF Community; one from the UMF Student Athlete Advisory Council, and UMF staff and colleagues.  It was a welcomed opportunity to be able to donate gift cards to students through the Thrifty Beaver,” said Scott Lavertu, executive director of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce.

The gift cards were delivered to the UMF food pantry and are available to students on a first-come, first-served basis.

“We are so grateful for the generosity of everyone involved in this endeavor,” said Mark Pires, UMF sustainability coordinator and advisor to the Thrifty Beaver. “So often, we see students in need who are putting in their best effort to meet these challenging times. Having the campus and community show they care about their health and wellness is a gift in itself.”

 The UMF Thrifty Beaver provides canned, frozen and non-perishable food to students with food insecurity. It also has a swap-shop with one-of-a-kind clothing and daily needs items. It is located on campus in room 004 in the Fusion Space on South Street. During the winter break, it is open Saturdays from 3 to 6 p.m., with special hours this Saturday, Dec. 19, 3-8 p.m. and closed on Sat. Dec. 26. For more information see their Facebook page