AUGUSTA — Several volunteers from a South Portland-based nonprofit delivered 25 personal care packages and nonperishable food items Thursday afternoon for veterans at the Bread of Life Ministries shelter.

A group of 10 from Partners for World Health also delivered socks, blankets, paper goods and mittens to the shelter. Shaylah Gordon, of Bucksport, helped organize the donation drive and the group collected items for about two weeks at the Marketplace at Augusta.

“We wanted to do something in the Augusta area because it’s a central point for all of us, and I really wanted to do something for vets because I have vets in my family,” Gordon said.

With so many local organizations helping people in need, Gordon chose the homeless veterans shelter because she thinks they are underserved and don’t receive the attention they deserve.

“They’ve done so much for us and we need to do more for them,” Gordon said. “It’s Christmas, they’re homeless and they need help, and it seemed like a great opportunity to give more to the people that have given so much to us.”

Rather than just giving canned goods or other nonperishable items, the volunteers decided to make holiday care packages that included toothbrushes, deodorant, toothpaste and other toiletries. In total, Partners for World Health will distribute more than 50 care packages to homeless shelters across Maine.

Molly Sirois, Bread of Life Ministries’ assistant executive director, said the care packages are especially helpful because it allows the organization to allocate resources to other areas of need.

“The donations we got for the 12 guys here help us use resources to get them rides to medical appointments and helps us serve in a different capacity,” she said. “Getting help from outside sources and organizations really helps.”

Aside from the tangible help the donations provide, Sirois said the donations show the veterans there are people in the community looking out for them and supporting them.

“A lot of the veterans that come here don’t have a lot of hope, so being able to come here and see people caring about them and wanting to give items that will help them be healthy brings a whole different feel,” Sirois said. “It means a lot, especially at Christmas, when a lot of our veterans don’t get to see their families.”

Army veteran Dave Austin, of North Berwick, said there is a lot of talk about how much support veterans need, and a lot of it seems to go unheard. But to see a group of strangers from around Maine coming together to support veterans they’ve never met is priceless.

“If it weren’t for these organizations, I wouldn’t have gotten a second chance,” Austin said. “I’ve never seen this much love for veterans in my life, and we need more and more organizations to help the veterans that need it.”

Partners for World Health volunteers Jenna Nesbit, of Oakland, and Sierra Harris, of Damariscotta, said they hope bringing care packages to the Bread of Life Veterans Shelter becomes an annual tradition.

“I would love to see it continue, because (this shelter) is such an amazing place,” Nesbit said. “The more we can bring and the more awareness will just allow these vets to have a quality of life they might not have had without our help.”

Gordon, Nesbit and Harris said they gathered all the items to donate to the shelter with just two weeks of planning, so next year they expect to double or even triple the amount of care packages and other items.

“Just think of what we could do with more time and more awareness,” Nesbit said. “We’re going to need a truck.”

Partners for World Health is an organization that collects discarded but usable medical supplies and ships them to countries in need. The nonprofit was founded in 2009 by Elizabeth McLellan, a former nursing supervisor at Maine Medical Center who started collecting discarded supplies in her home in 2007.

The volunteers said being a part of the organization makes them appreciate how fortunate they are to be able to go home to a warm bed or their own house or apartment. Although the organization serves foreign communities, Nesbit said there is such a need locally for help.

“A lot of people think of all the wonderful work (Partners for World Health) does for underdeveloped communities overseas,” she said, “but we have a huge need at home for help in this capacity and so many others, and we do our best to help our people here too, which may get missed in the grand scheme of things.”

Gordon said they are global and local. To that end, in May she’ll be going on a two-week medical mission to Senegal.

“Even with just this table, I feel like we’ve made a huge difference to these people,” Harris said. “I’m hoping in the next year we can have the community behind us to continue this.”

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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