She fills plastic bags with blankets, gloves, hats, toiletries and snacks and leaves them on street corners and in parks — wherever someone in need might find them.

The 38-year-old mother of four from Vassalboro leaves the packages in Augusta, Waterville, Bangor and Portland, and sometimes she even stops her car on street corners, rolls down the window and hands them out to people.

“It’s just a little way to give back,” said the woman, who wants to remain anonymous. “I do it to teach my children to give back. Every little thing helps. That’s what we talk about. A little thing can change someone’s day and that’s why we do it. They pack the bags with me. It gives a lot of joy to the kids and to me.”

She started the effort more than a year ago. At first, she made fleece blankets and left them, packaged, wherever people might find them. She said the packages are not just for those who are homeless, but for anyone in need of something warm.

“I’ve put them primarily in places where people might end up sort of stuck,” she said this week after the Morning Sentinel published a story Wednesday about the packages left on Main Street in Waterville. “I did Waterville because there’s a lot of homeless people there.”

There are also bars and nightclubs in the city, and one never knows what might happen in the night, she said. If someone sees a person lying on the ground, passed out or cold, he or she might need a blanket, for instance.

“My goal is all the cities in Maine,” she said. “I know there’s been something like this done in Boston. I haven’t done anything outside of Maine.”

The woman confirmed she is the one who left the Waterville packages after the Morning Sentinel got a tip and called her after Wednesday’s story was published, but she said she does not want to be identified publicly.

“Some friends and family know I do it,” she said. “For the most part, I try to stay anonymous.”

Betty Palmer, executive director of the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter in Waterville, said Monday she was glad people in the community are reaching out to those in need, but she wished they would contact the shelter and put notes with shelter contact information in the care packages. The homeless shelter can help people get housing, jobs and medical and other services, Palmer said.

The Vassalboro woman said she was glad to see Palmer’s comments and plans to contact her and put the shelter’s contact information in the bags.

Her efforts are seen by some as a simple, efficient way to help those in need.

Paige Barker, of the Poverty Action Coalition in Waterville, said a lot of people seeking help are asked to apply for what they need from service providers. They must fill out paperwork and prove eligibility, and that is a good thing, but “you don’t have to have a service provider to make a difference in people’s lives.”

“Even something as small as a blanket can make a difference,” she said. “It’s really heartwarming to know there’s someone in our community who cares so much and puts those gifts out there for people.”

Last year, the Vassalboro woman distributed 30 bags. This year so far she has distributed 45, she said.

“I’ve been busy,” she said. “I got recent donations of blankets from a local church and that’s just in the last couple of weeks. I also got a donation from a dentist’s office about a month ago. That’s how the toothpaste comes in.”

She said no one seemed to notice as she left the packages along Main Street in downtown Waterville this week.

“You’d be surprised what people don’t notice,” she said. “I did that in the middle of the day.”

Just about every week, she leaves bags at the park at the Two-Cent Bridge at Head of Falls off Front Street, she said.

She said she has a disability, but her husband works and is supportive of her charity. In fact, he also takes part.

“We’re not a rich family by any means,” she said. “I would do hundreds of these bags if I could. I do what I can when I can. My husband actually sometimes goes to Portland for work and hands out the bags.”

She said she realizes not everyone can donate to those less fortunate, but there are other ways they can pitch in.

“Even a smile or a kind word on a bad day could really make a difference, and that’s the goal of these bags — to just make people smile,” she said. “I feel like it’s some little way to give back to the world. Pretty cool place, Maine, and it’s pretty cold in the winter.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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