AUGUSTA — The United Way of Kennebec Valley planted the seeds for its annual campaign during a breakfast at the Augusta Civic Center Thursday morning.

“Planting Seeds for a Stronger Community” is this year’s theme, and each table had seeds of lupine and literature highlighting the organization and the work it does around the region.

To date, the United Way and its member groups have raised $777,631, or 52 percent of its $1.5 million goal. Charlie’s Motor Mall and Kennebec Savings Bank have raised more than $100,000 so far.

The annual campaign video, introduced by campaign co-chairman Scott Fossett, highlighted the work done by the Bread of Life Ministries in Augusta, founded by seven local families in 1984 as a soup kitchen. Bread of Life has expanded into a multi-service program that has provided food, shelter and employment coaching for thousands in Maine since its inception.

“I see hope in our community in each and every one of you,” Fossett said to the more than 200 people in attendance. “I urge everyone to start planting seeds, because it will make a difference.”

The Rev. Carolyn Neighoff, of the Water of Life Lutheran Church in Newcastle, spoke on behalf of the Bread of Life founders. She said there were so many people in downtown Augusta in the early 1980s with no place to go and nobody to talk to, so she started to have a conversation about starting a local soup kitchen.

“After sowing those seeds, seven families got together and purchased the building at 157 Water St. for $49,000, and the Bread of Life Soup Kitchen was started,” Neighoff said. “After all those seeds were sown, they’ve been watered by all the volunteers and staff over the years.”

Neighoff said there have always “been weeds trying to stifle the good work of the Bread of Life,” but she wanted to thank everyone who watered and fertilized the seeds back in the 1980s.

“We didn’t imagine all of this, so thank you for watering and fertilizing the Bread of Life so that it could grow into what it is today,” Neighoff said. “It works miracles in people’s lives and does its best to bring about change in people.”

It is bittersweet, Neighoff said, that the Bread of Life is still providing its services more than 30 years after its creation. In a perfect world, the soup kitchen, shelter and other services wouldn’t be needed because nobody would be hungry or homeless or in need of help, she said.

“The way to solve the situation that people are in is for all these good people here to adopt someone from the outskirts of society,” Neighoff said after the event. “When I sit with people at the soup kitchen and listen to their stories, they beam up because nobody really cares about them.”

Neighoff said, “We all don’t grow up in the same set of circumstances, and we all don’t get to do all the same things, so the cycle of poverty keeps going and going, and it’s so hard to break it.”

The only way to break the cycle, she said, is for people to adopt a family and help them break the cycle.

“Who would want to sleep in a homeless shelter rather than their own house?” Neighoff said. “It is bittersweet that Bread of Life has grown so much, but I’m thankful because the need has continued to grow.”

Others honored at the event were Allen and Dianne Ryan and Charlie and Nancy Shuman. Charlie Shuman, of Charlie’s Motor Mall, said Thursday was the 30th anniversary of the first car sold at a Charlie’s dealership.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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