WATERVILLE — Gov. Janet Mills’ call to service in her first week in office prompted Waterville businesses and organizations to collect more than 2,000 pounds of food and dispense it Saturday to food pantries in three counties.

The United Way of Mid-Maine Inc. took to heart Mills’ Day of Service request, launching a contest in which six teams built sculptures from cans and boxes of food they collected, invited the public to view and vote for the best ones and issued awards for Best in Show, Community Choice and Most on Brand.

Colby College, United Way, MaineGeneral Health, KV Federal Credit Union, Waterville Creates! and Waterville Sunrise Rotary Club teams gathered at 9 Saturday morning in the Chace Community Forum at the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons downtown, where they built their sculptures.

Later, volunteers drove the food to the Vassalboro Food Station in northern Kennebec County, Unity Barn Raisers in western Waldo County and Madison People Who Care Food Cupboard in Somerset County — the three counties United Way serves, according to its president and chief executive officer, Elizabeth Barron.

“I’m blown away,” Barron said of the response to United Way’s request for its partners to take part.

Food insecurity is a huge problem, she said, and during the holidays people are typically generous in helping to gather food for the needy; but after the holidays, the effort tends to die down, when the need is just as critical. With the arrival of cold weather, many people must choose between heating their homes and buying food and other necessities, Barron said.

The CANstruction contest, which was the brainstorm of United Way’s Rising Leaders Program, helped to remind people of the need for food donations and presented a fun way of bringing people together to celebrate the spirit of community, according to Barron.

KV Federal Credit Union took top honors Saturday, garnering two awards — Best in Show and Community Choice — for a huge American flag sculpture built with several hundred Campbell’s soup cans and large boxes of Honey Maid graham crackers. Five people worked on the KV team.

“I’m surprised that we got two awards,” said Alexandra Fabian, KV marketing and business development director, who organized the credit union’s efforts. “Everyone’s structures were really great, really creative. It is just really nice to see people come together and volunteer on their day off to better the community.”

The credit union gathered the most amount of food — more than 700 pounds — and its sculpture was deemed most creative.

The Sunrise Rotary Club took the Most on Brand award for being the entry to represent its business or organization best, with a sculpture of a Rotary Wheel composed of lots of cans and boxes of pasta, fruit, sauce and Bisquick, packaged in blue and yellow, Rotary’s colors.

Dressed as a construction worker, Rotary member and team coordinator Kelly Roderick said Rotary collected 180 pounds of food, representing 150 meals.

Colby College’s team created a sculpture titled “Two Cent Bridge,” complete with a tollhouse made with cans of petite diced tomatoes and a bridge with a walkway made from spaghetti boxes and railings created with bread sticks.

United Way’s sculpture, “Live United,” featured the nonprofit’s logo for 2019 and about 400 pounds of food. The Waterville Creates! team developed a “Painting the Roses Red” sculpture, depicting a playing-card soldier painting roses as part of an Alice in Wonderland theme. MaineGeneral created a sculpture representing the green, blue and light blue leaves in the MaineGeneral logo.

Sarah Webster, communications specialist for MaineGeneral, said the six-member team gathered 488 pounds of food as part of the contest.

“We love doing stuff like this,” Webster said. “We’re active partners with United Way, so we all know the importance of dealing with food insecurity, and we’re all happy to give up the morning to help those in need.”

Visitors to the contest brought more food — about 400 pounds’ worth — to add to the effort, and people on Facebook were able to vote for their favorite sculpture.

Judges Saturday were Kelly LaCasse, of Healthy Northern Kennebec; Joanne Booth; and Katie Pinkham, Mrs. New England ambassador for 2019.

Barron announced the winners at 2 p.m. Saturday, five hours after teams started building their structures.

“It is really fantastic,” Barron said of the turnout. “I love this community. People show up.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

 

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