Volunteers of All Abilities Help Out at Brewer Area Food Pantry

BREWER, ME (WABI)- In 2013, O-H-I took over operations of the Brewer Area Food Pantry at the request of the city.

Since then, the non profit has provided food to residents of Brewer and Eddington and provided a purpose for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Joy Hollowell tells us why it's a win-win for everybody involved.

"Mixed peaches?" asks the woman helping Shana gather food at the Brewer Area Food Pantry.

"Pears," answers Shana, placing a can of the fruit into the plastic shopping bag. The two women continue matching the items on their list with those on the shelves.
Shana started volunteering at food pantry a little more than a month ago.

"I just love what I do," she says, "the happiness, the glowing, the smiling."

Shana and others from OHI perform a variety of volunteer jobs, from stocking the freezer, to filling grocery bags with orders. OHI is a multi-service, non-profit that serves 6 counties in Maine.

"We support people with intellectual disabilities, mental illness, people who've been homeless for years," says Bonnie-Jean Brooks, President and CEO of OHI. "we do everything from 24-hour residential support to case management."

OHI's goal is to integrate, not separate their clients.

"That's how I started here," says Virginia Oakes, OHI's coordinator for the food pantry as well as Bonnie's thirft store in the basement of the North Main Street building. "I'm a member of Clubhouse. And I've struggled with anxiety and depression my whole life. We've worked side by side with them to empower them to feel good about what they're doing. And they do."

Additionally, students from Brewer schools and the community volunteer their time. Iva Copeland volunteers at the food pantry three times a week. "To see people grow, especially the ones that don't really have a chance but you work with them and they learn how to do stuff and it makes them smile and it makes you smile and at the end of the day, that's all good."

Up to 150 families are helped by the food pantry each month, making these volunteers valuable members of the community.

"They have a deeper appreciation for being given the chance to do that, to help," says Oakes. "They are such an added benefit to what we are doing here."

"Thank you very much, have a wonderful day," says Shana as she hands full grocery bags to a man at the food pantry.
On Friday, March 2nd, OHI is hosting a live and silent auction fundraiser.

It runs from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. At the Black Bear Inn in Orono.

Tickets are $10 each.

For more information, you can contact Brenda Leavitt at 605-1208

For more information on OHI, you can log onto https://www.ohimaine.org/