INDUSTRY – Louis Glidden doesn’t see a food pantry as a hand-out. Instead, says the Industry man, it’s a hand-up.

That’s why he’s relieved that the new Clearwater Food Pantry in Industry, operated by Clearwater Ministry, a group of seven or so benevolent community members in the greater-Industry area who undertake community service projects, is finally open for business and ready to reach out.

Glidden admits the food pantry is an idea that has been a long time brewing in the minds of those in the ministry.

And with the March closing of the Food Bank of the Mills, due to lack of space at the West Mills Community Church, it was an idea that just had to come to fruition pronto so that the 90-plus families from Industry, New Sharon and Chesterville who relied on the old food bank could still get supper on the table.

Finding the right home

When the Industry Fire Department moved into brand-new fire station earlier this year, a home, coincidentally located next to the old food pantry at the West Mills Community Church, became available.

Although the town technically owns the building, Glidden says, they’ve verbally agreed to rent it to the ministry for a cool $1 per year. It’s a good deal for all involved, he points out, saying the price is right for the ministry and the old firehouse is private and rural enough to provide a confidential, stigma-free pick-up for food pantry clients.

Providing that non-threatening atmosphere is something, Glidden says, is the food pantry’s cornerstone.

Through a volunteer matching program from MBNA, where MBNA security guard Peter Mars, also the chaplain for the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department, volunteers his time to the ministry in exchange for a cash donation from the credit card conglomerate, Clearwater Ministry was able to obtain much of the funds needed to restore the building.

On Saturday, July 12, the food bank shelves were picked over for the first time, says Glidden.

“It’s here, and it’s available,” Glidden proudly gushes, gesturing toward the rows of toilet paper, canned salmon, boxed macaroni and cheese and powdered milk, which comes from the Good Shepherd Food Bank in Auburn, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Western Maine Community Action Program and the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Gardiner, where Glidden’s sister, Kathy Pelletier, runs that church’s food pantry, “Christopher’s Place.”

Been there, done that

A former Episcopal Priest and antique dealer, and now the town’s animal control officer, Glidden says the ministry’s work is his lifeblood.

He is essentially retired now, but has found he is working harder than ever, sometimes taking two trips a day down to Auburn to pick up boxes of food.

He gets lost among the brown cardboard boxes stacked high in the storage room at the pantry. “It’s important to me because I’ve been homeless before. Thank God it was only for a short time,” his face squinting as he remembers, “but it’s an experience I’d never want to go through again.”

After having looked hardship dead in the eyes, Glidden and his volunteer staff at the pantry including Pauline and Greg Oakes of Industry find it impossible to turn people with open hands away.

“You’d be surprised the people out here who are bringing in paychecks and who still are eligible to apply for help,” he points out. The government requires proof of income/unemployment and expenses for an entire household in order for the Clearwater Food Pantry to be able to give out a seven-day supply of food for the family each month. But says Glidden, “If they call me and can prove it’s an emergency, we will help. No questions asked. You just can’t turn your back on someone and say ‘You made your bed, now lie in it.'”

Big ideas

Now that the food pantry has opened, the ministry has other big plans, including opening a clothing bank, setting up an elderly watch program and starting a senior social club that provides a healthy lunch and entertainment for area seniors each month. Maybe, they’ll even open a church of their own one day, Glidden foresees.

“We do a lot that’s not seen. We just go out and do it and raise our money the old fashion way,” he says, but adds that the ministry would be grateful for any donations of money, food or time. “Food, money, we won’t turn any of it away,” says Glidden grinning.

And then, proving that he and his ministry are flexible to meet all needs, adds, “There is a lot any ministry can do besides just help people out with a food bank. We’ll even help someone who needs to get a prescription, even if I had to use my own credit card. I’ll figure the bill out later.”

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