Kate Sebelin FILE PHOTO

Food pantry head leaving

BAR HARBOR — Kate Sebelin has seen the Bar Harbor Food Pantry through substantial growth and change in her nearly 11 years as executive director. She recently announced plans to step down and join the team at the Downeast AIDS Network in Ellsworth.

The board of the food pantry will seek to hire another full-time executive director, she said.

The pantry began as a program of the First Baptist Church. It became an independent organization in 1989. “We established our own nonprofit status but still work closely with the five sponsoring churches who decided to team up and help support this idea,” Sebelin said. The churches included First Baptist, St. Saviour’s, Holy Redeemer, the Bar Harbor Congregational Church and the Church of Our Father. The MDI Rotary club is also a primary sponsor. The churches and the Rotary club each send volunteers on a rotating basis.

“The place had been run for many years by Marianne Barnicle, who did it on a volunteer basis,” Sebelin said. “When she retired, she told the board they were going to have to hire someone.” The job took 10 hours per week at first, but the position grew quickly.

“We are open to any Hancock County community member whose family is in financial need,” she said. “Our way of helping financially troublesome situations is by providing food.”

The pantry, located at the YWCA on Mount Desert Street, is open Tuesday mornings and Thursday afternoons.

“Part of the work has been getting out into the community, connecting with the town office, hospital and churches so people know we exist,” Sebelin said. People receiving food are asked to fill out a short form so the pantry can collect statistics. “We’re just starting to get into the grant world,” she said. “The main source of our funding is from community donations, which is pretty amazing.”

The pantry also operates Serendipity, the used clothing store next to the fire station on Firefly Lane. The store has been a good addition to the organization, Sebelin said, and is its largest single source of funding. “It’s nowhere close to covering our annual needs,” she said, “but the town needed a store like that. And it gives our supporters another way to support us.”

Sebelin has worked closely with the food pantry’s board of directors to grow the organization’s structure to keep up with operations. Last year, they hired their first part-time staff person to assist the director.

Now she’s ready for a new challenge, she said, and has accepted a position as a development associate at the Downeast AIDS Network in Ellsworth. “One of the things I’ve really enjoyed at the food pantry is being able to dream of ideas to make things a little bit better, and being able to implement them,” she said. “That was an area I wanted to focus on. The AIDS Network is trying to rebrand their organization.” The group may be changing their name to reflect an expanded focus. “They want to begin the work of getting information out to community, and that’s where I come in.”

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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