REGION — Community organizations are providing holiday-related assistance this month, and expanding continued support services to ease the increasing economic strain posed by the pandemic.

The United Way of the Tri-Valley Area (UWTVA) is using its Very Basics Fund to provide additional funding to local nonprofits that are targeting short and long-term needs of residents in the Greater Franklin County.

“Most of our impact work in the community is around our traditional, receiving applications for funding, processing  donations and getting them back out in the community that way,” UWTVA Executive Director Lisa Laflin said.

The Very Basics Fund focuses on those impacted by the pandemic by distributing funds to programs that provide assistance for housing, utility and food bills. Through this fund, UWTVA has supported several food pantries and volunteers delivering food to students learning remotely, covered co-pays for mental health services, and funded the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) for numerous nonprofits.

A note left at the self-service food pantry at the Saint Joseph Parish hall in Farmington where a refrigerator is stocked with prepared meals. The food pantry is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and is located at the parish hall across the street from Saint Joseph’s at 133 Middle Street. Saint Joseph Parish Facebook

In order to target a vulnerable geographic area in Livermore and Livermore Falls where the Tri-Town Fuel Assistance program has recently dissolved, UWTVA will distribute $5,000 to the St. Rose of Lima Parish in Jay. The parish is establishing a fuel assistance program specific to these two towns.

“We are offering limited fuel assistance as long as funds are available,” Father Paul Dumais  said in a phone interview.

Those interested in applying for assistance should contact Stephanie Crowe at [email protected] or call (207) 897-2173.

Dumais added that both the parish in Jay and the Saint Joseph Parish in Farmington are also still offering prepared meals through the self-service food pantries located in the parish halls from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Saint Joseph food pantry is in the process of expanding to its own location in downtown Farmington and will be rebranded as Saint Joseph’s Nutrition Center. A collaborative effort with the Narrow Gauge Drive-in and Franklin Savings Bank is currently taking place in which ticket sales to weekend holiday showings will go towards the food pantry.

“People need help,” Dumais said. “We’re not doing anything kind of flashy for Christmas, we’re just sustaining the good efforts that we’ve undertaken so far, and then we’re adding fuel assistance for obvious reasons.”

For more Christmas-related assistance, the Farmington Elks Lodge #2430 is sponsoring the 49th year of Operation Santa Claus after Western Maine Community Action’s (WMCA) funds for the program depleted. The program distributes presents to families across the County by gathering donations from community members.

Elks’ Exalted Ruler Aaron Allumbaugh said that 250 families registered to receive gifts this year while he stood in the lodge surrounded by bags filled with toys. In the lodge’s hall, Allumbaugh had spaced out stations for volunteers to wrap the toys which he anticipates will be finished by Dec. 19.

“We’ve been doing pretty good staying ahead of it,” Allumbaugh said in good cheer while listening to holiday music and wearing a Santa hat.

Elk member Kevin Frost, left, and Exalted Ruler Aaron Allumbaugh stand among bags stuffed with donated Christmas presents for Operation Santa Claus at the Farmington Elks Lodge #2430 on Friday, Dec. 11. Andrea Swiedom/Franklin Journal

Gift wrapping volunteers can go to the lodge located at 120 School Street in Farmington on Wednesday and Friday from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Masks are required and social distancing will be practiced.

Toy and wrapping material donations are still being accepted by selecting a tag from a giving tree located at several businesses such as TD Bank and Wal Mart in Farmington. UWTVA also has a giving tree and has a contactless system for donations.

“We’re trying to work with Operation Santa and encouraging people who either want to take a tag, and we have excess tags, or bring in hygiene items or hats and mittens and things that are fairly generic that are very useful and people are having a hard time affording,” Laflin said. “We will then bring that as we’ve done years in past to Operation Santa for the last minute folks who missed the deadline so they would at least have something.”

Those interested in donating can contact UWTVA at (207) 778-5048 or Allumbaugh at (207) 491-1998.

For those in need of food assistance, the Healthy Community Coalition of Greater Franklin County will be distributing free food boxes at a drive-thru station in Farmington’s Wal Mart parking lot on Thursday, Dec. 17, at 8:30 a.m. until supplies last. 

The boxes are available to anyone in need and include 12 lbs. of fresh produce, 5 lbs. of meat, 5 lbs. of dairy products and 1 gallon of milk.

On Saturday, Dec. 26, the 3C Society will host its 4th Annual Family Style Christmas dinner at the Harnden Masonic Hall at 70 Bryant Road in Wilton. The Society is requesting that people make reservations this year by Dec. 21 by calling  778-6520 or visiting  http://facebook.com/3CSociety.

The 3C Society is also looking for volunteers to assist with the dinner.

 

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