BAR HARBOR – A local effort to encourage people to share their stimulus checks with those in need on Mount Desert Island is off to a great start. Fifteen local nonprofit organizations are participating, as well as the United Way of Eastern Maine.
“The SOS MDI website is getting hundreds of hits and more than a third are resulting in donations directly to MDI charities,” said Gary Friedmann of Gary Friedmann & Associates, which is coordinating the effort. Friedmann and his wife, Glenon, came up with the idea in March, when they realized the coronavirus pandemic would affect everyone, but unevenly. “The idea is to give those who are able an easy way to support local groups on the front lines. For some, a $1,200 stimulus check might feel like a bonus, while for others facing unemployment or loss of business, it falls far short of paying the bills.”
The organizations currently seeing the best response are the Bar Harbor Food Pantry, the Westside Food Pantry and the Common Good Soup Kitchen.
Dean Henry, director of Westside Food Pantry, said the influx of donations has been heartening. “We’ve been able to extend our distribution operations beyond our normal closing date of April 30 – we will likely go into June and perhaps July. We are seeing an increase in neighbors applying for help, as lay-offs, furloughs and business closings continue. And, due to the imposed safety guidelines and likely decreased tourist traffic, many of those who depend on seasonal employment are grateful to be continuing to receive help from the pantry for food security over the summer months.”
Jennifer Jones, executive director of the Bar Harbor Food Pantry, said that due to increased demand, they need to raise at least $150,000 more this year than last year. “If summer camps don’t open and there’s still restrictions on restaurants and lodging, we expect it to get worse before it gets better. We really appreciate donations right now!”
The YWCA of Mount Desert Island set up ‘the Benni Fund’ to offer financial assistance to single mothers who have been affected by COVID-19. Jackie Davidson, executive director of the YWCA said, “We had no idea community members would be as supportive as they have been. As word about the fund spreads, we’ve been receiving more applications, and make decisions as quickly as we can, taking into consideration what we are able to offer and how it will help the most.”