THOMASTON — No one would ever mistake Noah Ames for Santa Claus.

For one thing, the Matinicus lobsterman is rail-thin and lacks that signature bowl-full-of-jelly belly. He dresses in a sensible parka bundled up against a cold December wind, not a dashing red outfit pulled together with white trim, a black belt and boots. And Ames’ vehicle of choice is a black pickup, not a sleigh, although one suspects that Santa has the edge in roof-landing ability.

Ames does most of his good works on Christmas Eve and, for dozens of midcoast families, he, like the jolly old elf, shows up once a year to give with no expectation, or desire, for anything in return.

And rather than toys, Ames gives away hundreds of crustaceans, doling them out in plastic bags from the back of the pickup rather than Santa’s preferred down-the-chimney method of delivery.

Ames conducts his giveaway parked out in front of a friend’s marine supply store on Route 1 in Thomaston.

A simple A-frame sign was plunked in the snow at the edge of the road Sunday: “FREE LOBSTERS TODAY for families truly in need.”

Lobsterman Noah Ames conducts his giveaway parked out in front of a friend’s marine supply store on Route 1 in Thomaston. Staff photo by John Ewing

One man who saw the sign late Sunday morning pulled in and cautiously walked up to the pickup truck.

“How many do you have to feed?” Ames asked.

“Me, my wife and four kids,” said Freddy Ames (no relation) of Warren.

“Then you’ll need a dozen,” Noah Ames said, and started tossing the shellfish in a couple of bags, aided by his daughter, Nadia, 10.

He handed the bags to Freddy Ames, who said, “What a nice guy” as he turned and walked to his car with his own daughter in tow.

That’s Noah Ames’ approach: no other questions besides “how many?” No forms to fill out to demonstrate need. If you feel like you need a hand this holiday, Ames is ready to extend a claw, or two. Plus the tail.

Ames’ quest to give away the state’s signature product started four years ago, when he felt his children could benefit from a demonstration that Christmas is more than making wish lists and tallying how the “gots” fared against the “wants” on Christmas morning.

So he set out with about a hundred pounds of lobster that he hauled in on his boat, No Worries. Other lobstermen and dealers heard of his plan and pitched in totes of lobsters, too. After refusing all offers of money the first few years, last year he accepted donations for a local family with a young girl who has cancer. He continued that this year as the girl is still battling the disease.

“I didn’t count it, but it was quite a bit,” he said of the money raised last year.

Rick Whitten said his employer, Atwood Lobster of South Thomaston, is more than happy to help out with a hundred pounds of the crustacean.

“It’s more of a community thing,” Whitten said. “And I’ve never seen anyone taking advantage of it.” Walter Davis of Thomaston said he has stopped in each year Ames has been giving away the lobsters. Davis said this year was particularly tough for him and his family, with a half-dozen relatives dying within a few months of one another.

Davis said he’s particularly thankful that Ames supplied his holiday meal.

“We’ve had a lot of things on our minds,” he said, “And Christmas dinner wasn’t one of them.”

Sunday, it took Ames about an hour to give away 400 pounds of lobster. He provided 100 pounds and the rest came from Atwood Lobster and three other lobstermen.

Ames said he knows what it’s like to face hard times, from the normal boom-or-bust life of lobstering to sudden setbacks, such as the time a few months after he began the giveaway, when No Worries sank at its mooring while he was away. He managed to salvage the vessel and get back to lobstering.

But one senses that as much as he likes lobstering, the once-a-year giveaway is what keeps Ames going on those cold February mornings when he heads out to tend his traps. “Some people (who pick up lobsters) will have tears in their eyes and can’t really get their arms around giving lobsters away,” he said. “I want to give back to people who are struggling. It’s kind of gotten bigger than me. It’s a good thing – and the kids are really into it now.”

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]

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