FARMINGTON — Western Maine Homeless Outreach will host an open house and Cookie-Palooza from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16.

“We really want people to see the shelter and get involved,” Mary Beane said. “We hope to raise awareness of our need for volunteers and board members.”

Beane became involved with the shelter nearly two years ago. She serves on the board of directors and volunteers at the shelter.

“I decided to get involved because I was aware of an issue with teenagers who were homeless,” she said. “A teenager may be in a homeless situation because their family has been displaced. Maybe their family has broken up. They are facing having to leave their schools and they don’t want to.”

Beane said these teens often couch surf. They stay with friends for a few nights before finding another friend to stay with short-term. The Beane family has welcomed in many such teenagers over the years, she said.

“I am passionate about this because it is an issue,” she added. “It’s much more pervasive than we know because it’s not visible. It’s not like we live in a big city and it’s not like see homelessness on our streets.”

Beane will bake cookies for the open house in hopes of raising funds for the outreach. She has extensive catering experience and is well known for her passion for cooking.

She said there will be a decorate-your-own sugar cookie station. Cookies will be available to decorate by donation. She encourages families to bring children.

“Large pre-decorated sugar cookies will also be available for a donation. They will be wrapped in cellophane and ready for gift-giving,” she said.

A cookie buffet will also be set up. Visitors can try, and then buy, a variety of cookies. Beane said they will be perfect for holiday tables and cookie exchanges.

“Staff and board members will offer tours of the facility,” Beane said. “We will be available to answer questions, and explain how to become involved and why it is so important.”

The 16-bed shelter has been at Living Waters Assembly of God, 247 Wilton Road, for five years. The outreach is searching for a new location in hopes of assisting more guests. The funds raised during the open house event will help, Beane said.

“There is a whole host of preconceived notions when it comes to homeless people,” she said. “Often times, they are considered dirty or associated with drug problems. That can be the case. Often, the situation is simply circumstantial. Many people are one paycheck, one car repair, or one doctor’s visit away from homelessness.”

Beane noted substances are not allowed at the shelter.

“It is so important to realize there is a need right here in our neighborhood,” she said. “People are already involved with the homeless community, they just don’t know it. Our neighbors are in need and we need to take care of them.”

For more information about the open house, call Beane at 207-578-0236, or the shelter at 207-491-4100.

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