In a letter to the editor, published April 4, John Dube of Rumford was kind enough to have supported the Good Shepherd Food-Bank, but questioned his support when he saw that they were providing shoes to the Somali Bantu Center.
Let me explain the program, how it started, and its mission. In 2009 I was asked to be involved with the Lewiston-Auburn Association to Support the Homeless. Homelessness is not visible to all, but the numbers have grown dramatically, and there are more than 10,000 Maine people who experience homelessness during the year.
Some have substance abuse problems, and many of these are veterans. Others are abused women who can no longer stand the abuse and danger to their children. There are other children whose conflicts with a new male head of household are intense, and they are thrown out of the home to couch-surf. This starts as early as 9 years of age. They may live with grandparents, cousins, or in a friend’s home for a while. But there is no permanent home. There are 200 homeless schoolchildren in Lewiston, 100 in Auburn. There are families in which one person loses a job, then the other. They can no longer keep their apartment or home.
We decided to gather shoes for this need, from our customers, ourselves, and our suppliers. Together, we gathered approximately 10,000 pairs. The Good Shepherd Food-Bank has an extensive outreach program, and can deliver throughout the state. We asked it to be involved in this process. True to the legacy of JoAnn Pike, employees and volunteers did all in their power to distribute the shoes equitably.
The Somali Bantu have been discriminated against in Somalia, and still run into discrimination here. They are poor, but few are homeless. The Good Shepherd Food-Bank saw their needs and helped. It was a twist in the program, but still human kindness responding to human need. None are ever above criticism. However, let us all remember the constant good for people in need that the Good Shepherd Food-Bank accomplishes. It deserves our support.
Life is not easy. One of my grandfathers was born in Ireland, but went to work in England in a textile mill 10 hours a day, six days a week, when he was 8 years old. Life can be hard. Let’s look out for each other. We all have stories; we all have needs.
And let’s all support the Good Shepherd Food-Bank.
Jim Wellehan, Auburn