PITTSFIELD — One hundred seventy survival backpacks were dropped off at the Pittsfield Community Theater on Feb. 5 by Peter Kelleher, aka the Soupman.

Inside each pack was a hat, gloves, socks and a large Ziploc bag filled with individual toiletries, some basic needs for a homeless person as well as items food stamps can’t buy. Helping to unload the backpacks were 15 community administrators from churches, food pantries, schools, law enforcement, Northern Light/SVH and the District Attorney’s Office. The packs will be distributed to the needy within Pittsfield and Somerset County, according to a news release from Grace Lommel.

The Soupman readily admits that he wasn’t always a fan of people. But when his homeless son Travis died three years ago from a drug overdose in Bangor, he says his outlook on life changed. He started serving soup to the homeless in Massachusetts where he lives and realized he could make a difference in their lives, according to the release.

Word spread about the Soupman and now Kelleher has expanded his services. Several times a year Kelleher travels to Maine with his support dog Koji in a donated, renovated school bus. The bus is a clothes pantry on wheels with bins of winter socks, gloves, coats and boots. In the summer, he’ll have outdoor shower facilities. He expected to distribute 1,700 backpacks during the week to Mainers in need, according to the release.

Pittsfield Police Chief Pete Bickmore was delighted when the Soupman contacted him. “Last year, this guy drove up in this weird, red school bus, dropped off 25 backpacks at our station and took off. We didn’t know who he was, what he was about. Nothing,” Bickmore said according to the release.

This year, with a week’s notice, Bickmore organized community leaders for a pickup and even escorted the Soupman into town. “Cops working together with the community — it’s what we do. It helps everyone.”

At a meeting before the Soupman’s arrival, and knowing there was a limited supply of backpacks, the leaders decided to distribute them within their own needy.

For Beth Platt, patient navigator at Sebasticook Valley Hospital, the needy are the middle-aged to elderly people who can’t afford health insurance or prescription drugs and sometimes don’t have hats or gloves. “They’re living in a car, even a mini-barn. These are the frequent flyers in the emergency room. It doesn’t seem like it’s a big deal (the backpacks”, but they’re very touched and appreciative,” Platt said, according to the release. Platt took 10.

Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster is donating the 15 bags he picked up to individuals leaving the jail that are indigent. “I think that we change things one person at a time,” Lancaster said, according to the release.

Det. Mike Pike of the Somerset County District Attorney’s Domestic Violence Office took 20. Half are going to domestic violence victims in or out of shelters and half to KVCAP. “It’s just the right thing to do,” Pike said, according to the release.

Shirley Humphrey of Hartland took 10. “Three are going to the town office for general assistance, three for the fire department for emergency burnouts and the rest to our food cupboard for those without gloves and hats,” Humphrey said, according to the release.

Larry Kehoe of the Pittsfield Food Pantry, which also serves Detroit and Burnham, put 10 in his wagon. “We’ve all been down that road — losing a job, illness or whatever, wondering how to pay bills. Anything helps,” Kehoe said, according to the release.

Lt. Jason Madore of the Maine State Police, Troop C, Skowhegan took 10. “We put a backpack in every cruiser because you never know who or when it’ll be needed,” Madore said, according to the release.

Also participating were Jaime Jensen of the Pittsfield Community Theater who hosted this event, Pastor Ted Bragg of the Pittsfield Calvary Baptist Church, Pastor Tim Hoyt of the Pittsfield Church of the Nazarene, Pastor Herb Pearl of the Palmyra Food Pantry, Macie Batchelder of Maine Central Institute, Superintendent Sherry Littlefield of Maine School Administrative District 53, Chief Dave Bucknam of the Skowhegan Police Department, and Mike Cray of Northern Light.

For more information about the Soupman, visit supportthesoupman.org.

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