A tree in Harpswell, filled with winter items made by Bundle Up Brunswick volunteers. (Contributed photo)

BRUNSWICK — Christine Roy hasn’t stopped knitting all year, and her stash of hats, mittens and scarves — now up to over 100 items — is growing by the day. She has no intention of stopping her knitting needles any time soon. 

Roy is one of about half a dozen who make up the volunteer group known as Bundle Up Brunswick, which has been making and distributing hundreds of winter clothing items across Brunswick, Bath and Harpswell for the past three years. 

They go out to areas where they have seen need — such as the areas around Tedford Housing’s two local homeless shelters, The Gathering Place day shelter, Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program or Bath Area Food Bank — and tie the clothing to fences, lamp posts and trees.

Each piece of clothing bears a tag that reads “I am not lost, please take me if you need to bundle up in Brunswick.” 

Bundle Up started after driving by Midcoast Hunger Prevention one day “and seeing people waiting line one very cold day,” Roy said. Many of them had no hats or gloves. 

“Some men were blowing into their hands to keep warm,” she said.  

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It did not take long before they expanded from Brunswick into Bath and Harpswell, and Roy also started making fleece headbands and fleece scarves, which she estimated she can “whip up” in about an hour. 

“You’re constantly reading that the homeless situation is growing,” Roy said. “We find younger people, women that have children, for different reasons there’s a need there,” she said. 

According to the Maine Point-in-Time Count, which offers a snapshot of homelessness on one night of the year, there were 1,215 Mainers experiencing homelessness on Jan. 22, 2019; an 8% increase over 2018, at which point the numbers, 5% lower than in 2017, seemed to be trending in a positive direction. 

But this year, with 90 more people either on the streets or in the shelters than last year, and even more uncounted, the situation does not seem to be improving. This year, over one-third of homeless households are families with children, according to the report, 17% more than last year. 

In fiscal year 2018, Tedford Housing served 87 individuals and 15 families in the adult and family shelters, but had to turn away 354 individuals and 228 families due to lack of space. 

As the weather gets colder, Roy and her fellow volunteers are getting ready to start dispersing the items they have amassed over the year, and once temperatures start to really dip, they will go weekly. In their experience, most of the items find homes within a few hours.

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Bundle Up Brunswick volunteers knit and sew year-round so that come winter they will have hundreds of warm winter items to distribute to community members in need. (Contributed photo)

“Winters (in Maine) are cold, as you know, and a lot of people don’t have warm hands and warm feet,” said Hollie Ingraham, a Bundle Up Brunswick volunteer. 

Ingraham does not knit or sew. Instead, she stuffs bags. 

On top of the many hats, scarves and mittens, Bundle Up Brunswick stuffs Ziplock bags with hand and foot warmers, beef jerky, nuts, tissues, small toiletries and small gift cards to places like Hannaford and Dunkin. 

“It might only be $5” on a card, she said, “but that can get someone a hot coffee from Dunkin or a sandwich from Hannaford.” 

She and the others in the group carry these bags with them in their cars and hand them out to people they see around town who could use a little extra support. 

To help combat a growing need, Bundle Up Brunswick is seeking additional donations, especially mittens, for adults and children. Items can be handmade or purchased, and there is a donation bin at the Brunswick Recreation Center in Brunswick Landing, which is checked regularly. Donations of yarn are also appreciated. 

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“Some people really appreciate the fact that they have a handmade item,” Roy said. 

She remembered one woman who was relatively new to knitting, who donated a scarf she made. 

“She was a little embarrassed because it wasn’t perfect,” she said, “but I told her, ‘It’s not about being perfect, it’s about keeping somebody warm.’” 

Roy has since seen people out and about, wearing a hat she or one of her friends made, but she never says anything, just smiles and appreciates the “nice warm feeling” it gives her. 

“We’re pitching in to do our little part and doing what we can to help our community,” she said. 

For more information visit Bundle Up Brunswick on Facebook or email [email protected]


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