Nov. 18—LEWISTON — Dozens of volunteers combed the streets of Lewiston on Saturday for The Root Cellar's annual Turkey Basket Drive, bringing 96 baskets of Thanksgiving food to people in need.
Dozens of volunteers crowded The Root Cellar's café by 9 a.m. After some instructions and a quick prayer, they grabbed yellow slips with names and addresses on them and set out to deliver baskets to people, most of whom would have not been able to afford buying food for Thanksgiving meals otherwise.
It is the 12th year that The Root Cellar has organized the event. Going into the event each year, organizers never know exactly how many baskets will be donated or how many volunteers will show up, but they have always had enough donations to fill all requests, according to Executive Director Joel Furrow. This year there were just over 100 baskets donated, the extra baskets will be handed out to others on Monday.
It is an opportunity to meet new people in the community, some from completely different cultures and walks of life. Volunteer Megan Gaudin's favorite part of the event is seeing the joy on people's faces when she shows up with a basket full of food, ensuring they have a meal for the holiday.
She has survived hard times as a recovering cocaine and alcohol addict, Gaudin said, though she was never homeless or went without food. Her desire to help people and love them inspired her to volunteer for the event, which she has participated in for three years. She has come to learn not to judge people by situations alone, rather she considers their story and them as a person.
Gaudin feels like it is a gift to be able to step outside of her own world and shift the focus from herself, she said. She passed out several boxes to people Saturday.
One of those people included Ambiyo Aden who has only been in the United States for two years after coming from Kenya, she said. It is her second Thanksgiving in the United States and her first year getting a Thanksgiving basket from The Root Cellar.
If not for the donation, Aden would not have been able to pay for everything required for a Thanksgiving dinner, she said. She will spend the day with her nine children, eight of whom are minors, and some extended family. She relies in part on Organizations like The Root Cellar to help with certain needs, such as food and winter gear for her kids.
There are many families in need of winter gear, particularly asylum seekers who are coming to Maine with very little and are not yet able to work, Furrow said. The Root Cellar's next big event is to collect donations of new or gently used winter coats and boots of all sizes.
Heather and Kyle Brewin handed out several baskets to people in need for the first time this year after learning about the event through their church, Redemption Hill in Lewiston. Heather is happy to be in a position this year to help others, she said. Not everyone can give extra but they do and it makes her feel fortunate that she is able to.
"When you do things like this you feel even more grateful for the things you do have," she said.
The Brewins delivered food to Roberta King, who has received a basket from The Root Cellar for the last two years, King said. She struggles with affording food toward the end of the month and without the Thanksgiving box she would not be able to buy all the supplies required for the dinner. She already had family arriving for the holiday on Saturday.
Marie Cote does not have a job right now, so it would not be possible for her to buy an entire Thanksgiving meal herself, she said. Her parents, sister and nephew will join her for Thanksgiving this year so it means a lot to her that she is able to have a holiday meal with them.
Pauline Griffin also received a Thanksgiving basket Saturday and will celebrate Thanksgiving with six or eight friends this year, she said. She usually gets a basket from The Root Cellar every year and appreciates how reliable the organization is.
Furrow thinks it is beautiful to see all the people who come to donate meals or help deliver them but he does not view it as charity, he said. Instead, he looks at it as a way to serve people in the community who he feels deserve love. He encouraged volunteers to get to know the people who they are helping when they bring food, helping to make connections among community members.
"They're not just people in need, they're neighbors we get to do life with," he said.
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