A worker packs food boxes at Good Shepherd Food Bank in Auburn. A mystery donor offered $1 million as a matching grant that was recently fully met. Good Shepherd Food Bank photo

AUBURN — It would not be the holidays without a mystery philanthropist, and this year the Good Shepherd Food Bank has got one. 

An anonymous donor has challenged Mainers to help fight hunger in the state by pledging $1 million to match new and increased gifts to Good Shepherd Food Bank’s $250 million Campaign to End Hunger in Maine.  

The donation was completely anonymous. It is not clear whether it was a man or woman as the donor’s identity is being strictly guarded.  

Good Shepherd could not confirm reports that the donor is a portly man with a long, white beard all dressed in red. 

One thing we do know: The results of the donor’s generosity have created a philanthropic snowball effect — the $1 million matching challenge was successfully met this month, Good Shepherd officials said, resulting in a total of $2 million generated to help the organization meet its goal of ensuring every Mainer has access to enough nutritious food, when and where they need it, by 2025. 

The only details released about the donor is that he or she is an Auburn native and a graduate of the University of Maine. 


Beyond that? 

“I have to plead the fifth,” said Ethan Minton, major gift officer with Good Shepherd. 

The donor, said Minton, has good reasons for wishing to remain an enigmatic figure. 

“I think for some donors, the idea of remaining anonymous is in part because they’re shy and don’t want to brag,” he said. “But in this case, it’s also that the donor wants the focus to be on the impact of the gift in supporting our campaign.” 

Fair enough. But the people of Good Shepherd are not shy about expressing their gratitude. 

“We are incredibly grateful for the leadership support from this generous donor who is investing in the future of our state and encouraging others to do the same,” said Kristen Miale, president of Good Shepherd Food Bank. “We’re inspired by the donor’s trust and confidence, and by so many supporters across the state who are rallying to ensure all Mainers have access to enough healthy food, today and in the future.” 


According to Minton, Good Shepherd was first contacted by the donor right before Christmas two years ago. The donor at that time wanted to know more about the work that the food bank was doing. 

“We had a couple of great conversations,” Milton said. “I think the donor was especially impressed that, beyond the day-to-day providing of meals, we have these long-term strategies to get to the underlying causes — that our partnerships are addressing some of the issues around health care, job training and financial literacy. 

“I think the other part of it for this donor was just looking at the fact that hunger always seems to impact kids at a greater level,” Milton said. “Like, 11.5% of the state’s population is food insecure. For kids, it’s about 20%. That really struck a chord with the donor.” 

The donor began supporting Good Shepherd during the pandemic, Minton said, “and as they learned more about what we’re doing, decided to put this gift in and the challenge. We’re obviously thrilled.” 

The $1 million donation is worth more than just the monetary figure, Minton insists. History has shown them that pledges of this nature tend to inspire others to donate as well.  

For the public, the mystery donor doesn’t have a name or a face, but he or she did offer up an explanation for the pledge. 


“It’s a harsh reality that when hunger soars, children suffer most,” the donor wrote in a Good Shepherd news release. “In fact, one in five Maine kids regularly experiences hunger. What is most exciting to me about the Food Bank’s work is that they are investing in longer-term solutions for a hunger-free tomorrow. Young Mainers represent the future of our state, and we can’t afford to let them down.”

The donor said it is also Good Shepherd’s multi-pronged approach to the hunger problem that attracted them. 

“Their partnerships with other organizations that are solving housing, health care, job training, and financial literacy issues are particularly impressive to me.” 

Good Shepherd publicly announced the Campaign to End Hunger in January and endeavors to raise $100 million in cash and pledges and $150 million in donated food before the end of 2025, creating an overall fundraising goal of $250 million. The organization has raised nearly $170 million in food and funds to date. 

The Campaign to End Hunger comes amid the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which set rates of hunger into a tailspin. Last fiscal year Good Shepherd Food Bank distributed a record-setting 31.6 million meals to an estimated 182,000 Mainers experiencing hunger, according to officials. Yet, the organization estimates that as many as 40 million meals could be missing from Mainers plates each year, leaving a gap of more than 8 million meals to fill annually. Good Shepherd Food Bank is investing in greater food distribution, as well as longer term solutions.  

“We can and will grow our nutritious food distribution to meet the urgent need of Mainers today, just like we did over the past year,” said Miale. Yet, we can also close Maine’s meal gap by advocating for policies and public/private partnerships that strengthen the safety net and address the root causes of hunger and poverty to reduce the demand on food pantries and meal sites across the state. Our work is not done until we have worked ourselves out of business.” 

Visit feedingmaine.org/campaign for more information about the Campaign to End Hunger in Maine.

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