LEWISTON — Volunteers with a group committed to bridging gaps between immigrant and local communities celebrated Thanksgiving in Kennedy Park handing out food, blankets, hypothermia kits and opioid overdose medication.

The Lewiston High School students served more than two dozen people, many of them homeless, at the first Maine Community Integration Thanksgiving Feast.

The students are members of Iskufilan, a girls’ group associated with Maine Community Integration. Iskufilan means “self-sufficient” in Somali.

“It’s not only people living under a roof who celebrate Thanksgiving,” said Shukri Said, one of the student organizers.

“There’s a big population that is just forgotten about,” Mariam Andoniados, another student organizer, said.

Koos Mohamed, the leader of the group and a student at the University of Southern Maine, said they began planning the event two weeks earlier, eager to help their community in the spirit of Thanksgiving.

“I think it’s important, especially for a group of girls of color, Black girls, helping out their community,” Mohamed said. “Because you don’t really see that, especially when Maine’s so like — it’s not really common to see.”

The girls shared containers of Somali food from Isuken Co-op, including sambusa, chicken and rice. They brought enough so attendees could take extra meals to eat later.

They also created 150 hypothermia kits, along with items that would be useful for the approaching winter.

“It’s very little,” Fowsia Musse, executive director of Maine Community Integration, said. “I wish we had more. They need more than that.”

Maine Community Integration is committed to integrating New Mainers into their communities while respecting and uplifting their diverse cultures, identities and tradition. It focuses on empowering New Mainer girls and their families through a variety of social education and systems advocacy programs, according to its website.

For some people, the noontime meal was the first they had eaten Thursday.

Sandra Landry said she had been waiting for the event since 6 a.m.

“I feel really blessed,” she said, adding she was happy to celebrate the holiday among friends since she couldn’t be with her family. She carries most of her possessions, including a large green stuffed dinosaur, by belting them together.

Scott Currie is also homeless. He has been talking with a caseworker for six weeks to find housing, but has not yet had any luck, he said.

“I’ve experienced a lot of adversity in my last few years,” he said. “Medical issues, financial issues, housing issues. But, there always seems to be someone there to head it off at the pass. Today, I had a good meal here.”

The girls said they wanted everyone to leave happy, full and feeling more secure with the blankets, hypothermia prevention kits and Narcan.

They hope to organize a similar event next Thanksgiving, they said.


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