WINTHROP — In one of her first actions as the state’s new governor, Janet Mills called residents into action to give back to their communities during Saturday’s Day of Service.

In Winthrop, volunteers stocked and sorted food and supplies at the Winthrop Food Pantry, while others at the Children’s Center in Augusta threw on old clothes and painted the main hallway of the building.

“For organizations like us, this is a fantastic thing,” said Jeff Johnson, executive director at the Children’s Center, who received at least 12 volunteers, many of whom had no affiliation with the center.

Ginger Davis, of China, had never been to the Children’s Center before the governor announced her initiative.

The center, one of four, serves around 100 children ages 6 weeks to 6 years with disabilities.

“It seemed like such a good idea for a statewide service day,” Davis said. “I’ll be here as long as they want me.”

Volunteers could find locations and sign up to serve on a web page created by the governor’s office. “(I was able) to find a place near me that would make it possible to make an impact,” said Jenni Tilton-Flood, of Clinton, who was volunteering in Winthrop.

Each month, Winthrop Food Pantry feeds around 100 families from Winthrop and Wayne — around 360 individuals, of all age groups. It also provides Kid Packs to about 70 school-age youths that contain supplemental food for children on the weekends, along with personal care items for older students.

“(The service project) is an opportunity to show others what we do,” said JoEllen Cottrell, executive director of the food pantry.

The pantry receives much of its food from the Good Shepherd Food Bank, but individuals can make donations from their family gardens or when their backyard chickens lay too many eggs.

Cottrell suspects the hunger in her towns is greater than what she sees. “There a stigma that surrounds hunger,” Cottrell said, explaining that children didn’t want to take the Kid Packs home.

It’s not something to be embarrassed about, she said.

“Sometimes people are hungry because their grocery money went to heating oil,” she said. “If we can help, please let us help.”

Those who missed the opportunity to participate in the Day of Service may contact the Maine Commission for Community Service, which can put prospective volunteers in touch with organizations needing help. At the Children’s Center, those wishing can volunteer by contacting Karen Littlefield, 626-3497; and at the Winthrop Food Pantry, contact Cottrell at 377-3332.

Abigail Austin — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @AbigailAustinKJ

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