A Piscataquis Regional Food Center “mega-distribution” from earlier this year. Puritan Medical and Hardwood Products donated $20,000 plus a $5,000 matching donation from its employees to the food center. Submitted photo

DOVER-FOXCROFT — Four times throughout the fall, the nonprofit Piscataquis Regional Food Center held “mega-distributions” from the Piscataquis Ice Arena parking lot, giving out 1,000 boxes of food.

Each event distributed boxes to people from over 40 municipalities, providing food to nearly 2,000 people each time.

The PRFC got a major holiday gift last week when Puritan Medical and Hardwood Products donated $20,000 plus a $5,000 matching donation from its employees, which will help fight food insecurity.

“I think the real tell-tale sign for us is the volume of food and the number of people that have been served by the mega-distributions,” said Erin Callaway, PRFC’s executive director. “We had people driving, in some cases, two hours, to come get food. To see that number of people coming from so far away really drives home how great the need is.”

The PRFC is not a food pantry, but a food redistribution storage hub servicing the entirety of Piscataquis County and a handful of Penobscot County municipalities. The organization connects people with sources of healthy food through a variety of programs.

“Puritan very generously gave this to us as an unrestricted donation, which means we can apply this to a number of things where we feel it’s needed most,” Callaway said. “We’ll be able to use the money to fund all of the operations and help move the food around to people.”

Puritan, which is located in Pittsfield and Guilford, made a $20,000 donation and offered a $5,000 matching donation from its employees, for a potential total of $30,000.

Timothy Templet, executive vice president of Global Sales for Puritan Medical and Hardwood Products, saw members of the community struggling with food insecurity.

“Watching the lines of people picking up lunch baskets in (Dover-Foxcroft) throughout the fall was very impacting to me personally,” Templet said. “When it came to the end of the year and understanding what strong gifts we could give to our community, the food center was a very normal selection and just made a lot of sense, and I think, going forward, we are going to continue to support them in a large way.”

Puritan Medical Products was recently named the Inc. Magazine Company of the Year for its role in developing and quickly producing nasal swabs necessary for COVID-19 testing.

Timothy Templet Submitted photo

“Our company employs quite a few people in many different communities, and within those communities, there are people who don’t have work and need help,” Templet said. “We support many people in those communities, and it was just a natural thing to give back to the communities that have supported us during this time of COVID, since March.”

PRFC works with food pantries and also distributes to homebound seniors through its FarmShare for HomeBound delivery programs, as well as the monthly Commodity Supplemental Food Program through the Eastern Area Agency on Aging. They also bring loaded box trucks to communities for mobile and “mega-distributions” in small towns without food pantries. They work in partnership with the Good Shepherd Food Bank and local farms in a new model to provide for those who are food insecure. The mobile distributions will occur more often thanks in part to the donation.

The organization did four mega-distributions. With the donation the organization is prepared to do more. At the previous events between 30,000 pounds and 50,000 pounds of food were given to approximately 900 households. The pandemic has driven need. Seniors and households with young children were the most common demographic of people in need.

PRFC also has climate-controlled storage for regional farms and spaces for them to sort and pack produce on site. Each year, PRFC distributes over half a million pounds of food.

Puritan gives to other entities in the area, but it was the first time Templet remembers donating to the PRFC. Puritan has approximately 900 employees in three plants, two in Pittsfield and another in Guilford. Templet does not know the specifics of the employee match to date, but it “has been embraced by everybody.”

“A donation of this size is wonderful, but it’s more than financial support, it’s what the support communicates to us and the community at large,” Callaway said. “Puritan understands how big of a need there is in this area, and it’s expressing their value for what we do and we really appreciate that very much.”

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