LEWISTON — A Lewiston-based nonprofit organization hosted a meet-and-greet Saturday to share the services it provides the community.

The Kindness Collective of Maine is a family-run community support organization that helps the homeless, victims of domestic violence and struggling veterans by supplying them with essential goods at no cost and with no questions asked.

“Today’s event was just about getting more people down here to get the word out about us,” said Bret Martel, co-founder of the organization. “We could let them know about our services and what we do. For anyone that wanted to come down and look at what we’ve got or knows someone (in need), then we invited them down to get whatever they saw and to try to spread some good with it.”

Working in partnership with other community organizations, such as Safe Voices and the R.E.S.T Center, the Kindness Collective has pursued its goal of having a positive influence on the community through a collective effort.

Bret Martel stocks shelves Saturday at The Kindness Collective of Maine in Lewiston. Martel is a co-founder of the organization, which buys pallets of returned goods from Amazon and receives donations from the public. The items are then given to anyone who needs them, with no questions asked. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

The organization operates out of a room at the Pepperell Mill filled with toys, books, furniture and clothes. Its inventory comes from Amazon return palettes, which contain items returned by customers. Instead of returning the items to the original manufacturers, however, Amazon sells them at reduced prices.

The palettes come in categories, such as kitchen goods or brand name clothing.


Guests often come in with vouchers allowing them a certain number of items or that are sponsored by other community organizations in partnership with the Kindness Collective.

The space is laid out like a thrift store, with shelves lining the walls, overflowing bins on the floor and a center table loaded with clothing and duffle bags.

“Sometimes, there’s a sense of shame for people,” Martel said. “Instead of setting it up as us handing them everything, we want it to feel natural. Part of the layout is so that they can see things that they hadn’t thought of.”

Martel is a Lewiston resident and father of two who started the collective in 2021 to “put some good back out into the community” as personal atonement for his years struggling with drug addiction.

Eddie, left, and Sonia Bermonty of Sabattus pick up items Saturday at The Kindness Collective of Maine in Lewiston. The couple say they help those who are living in shelters. They are also picking up a few things for Sonia’s parents, who recently relocated to the area, and a couple of items for themselves. The organization provides items at no cost and with no questions asked. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Now in recovery, Martel runs the collective with his mother, Danelle “Sis” Martel, his girlfriend, Sharla McKenna, and his aunt, Joann Cody, who make up the board of directors.

Martel said he felt the idea of a free store in a community where nothing else like it existed could effect change in a more personal way by encouraging self-improvement through positive reinforcement.

“We want to encourage them to keep working hard at what they’re doing,” Martel said. “They’re doing something good, and we want to support that.”

Martel said since the Kindness Collective opened in March 2021, it has helped hundreds of families in the Lewiston-Auburn area, bringing in almost $100,000 worth of retail value from the palettes bought from Amazon.

The organization also accepts donations and is planning to move into a larger space to house more inventory.

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