HARRISON — When Maine’s economy closed during the early days of the pandemic, the Harrison Food Bank braced itself for the onslaught of people in need of food assistance. Fortunately, a surge of volunteers stood up to help as well. One person leading the charge was Harrison resident and Rotarian Sheila Rollins.

“Sheila called me at the beginning of the pandemic,” shared Harrison Food Bank founder and Operations Manager Sandy Swett. “She wanted to know what she could do to help.”

Sheila Rollins of Harrison, who championed for ways to help follow Mainers through Rotary. Supplied image

Rollins, district governor of 40 Rotary Clubs throughout Maine and New Hampshire, quickly organized an assembly line of volunteers in her network that took on the responsibility of delivering food to people throughout western Maine who were forced into sheltering at home due to the coronavirus.

Each week Rotarians rolled through the parking lot of the Harrison Food Bank, filling their trunks with boxes of provisions and drove them to families and seniors unable to get out.

The connection the volunteers made with recipients quickly went beyond home delivery. Dan Hart, who is a member of the Rotary Club of Oxford Hills, recalled that he was sometimes the only person outside of the household some might see during the day.

He discovered that he could provide additional comfort to them, whether it be with a casual conversation or relay information about resources to help them while in isolation.

Sadly, Rollins passed away earlier this year from Cardiac Light Chain Amyloidosis, a rare disease that never slowed her down until it stopped her. According to her obituary, even in her last days Rollins was actively conducting Rotary business and other endeavors from her hospital bed.

The kinds of connections Hart spoke of are exactly the reason why Rollins got involved with the Rotary. While running for a seat in the Maine Legislature years ago she spoke at the Bridgton Lake Region Rotary Club.

Realizing that Rotary actually provided more opportunity to serve and support than the state legislature did, she became a member, quickly rising through the ranks to club president, assistant district governor, and district governor. Through Rotary, she found an outlet to take on social issues that had come to define her over her life: human trafficking, illiteracy, clean water, the environment and animal rights, to name a few.

During the pandemic, one of the Rotarians who answered Rollins’ call to action to fight food insecurity was Jim Schmidt, a North Yarmouth resident and member of Rotary Club of Portland Sunrise. He and Rollins were friends through Rotary and also through their love of flying (once upon a time Rollins was a pilot with a UPS sub-contractor).

Schmidt has his own generous traditions – one of which involves the annual purchase of  4-H market livestock at the Cumberland Fair, having the meat processed at Windham Butcher Shop and distributing it to various organizations, friends and employees.

After Rollins’ death, and knowing how important the Harrison Food Bank’s mission was to her, Schmidt decided to dedicate his entire 2021 purchase of swine, sheep and beef in her name. Last month Swett took delivery of more than 800 pounds of locally raised meat that is now being distributed in weekly allotments to Maine families in need.

Schmidt intends to dedicate his 4-H purchase to the food bank every year going forward.

“Sheila was very serious about Rotary, and helping others in any way that she could,” said Schmidt. “She was also a vegetarian so it’s ironic to memorialize her in this way. But I know that she had no problem with providing nutrition to all who need it.”

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