Every fall, hundreds of migrant workers come to Downeast Maine for work in the holiday wreath industry. Workers and their families often travel long distances and arrive with urgent needs for warm clothes and healthy food. In response to the increased need in our community during this time of year, Mano en Mano partnered with local organizations to host a welcome and resource center at Faith United Methodist Church in Columbia. The center was open the week of October 22nd with another event held on November 10th at Centre Street Congregational Church in Machias.
The purpose of this center is to welcome both newcomers and returning workers to Downeast Maine and provide the tools and support they need to thrive. Volunteers and staff distributed donations of warm clothing, boots, blankets, toiletries and hygiene products. Non-perishable foods along with fresh fruits and vegetables are also available for visitors to the welcome and resource center. On October 24th, the community gathered to share a hot meal cooked by volunteers and staff. Another community meal was served on November 10th in Machias.
We are happy to report that during the week of October 22nd, the welcome center hosted approximately 300 people. Of those, nearly everyone received clothing. A total of 350 people received boxes of non-perishable foods as well as fresh fruits and vegetables like beets, squash, and bananas. During the community meal on October 24th, 70 people enjoyed Haitian and Mexican-style dishes. On November 10th, 100 workers stopped by the welcome center in Machias in just one evening! Ninety people received clothes, 70 people received food, and 75 people enjoyed a hot meal.
We can’t be more emphatic in stating that we would not have been able to pull of this event without all of our amazing volunteers! More than 55 volunteers made the welcome and resource center possible. Volunteers sorted donated clothing before the events, solicited donations, stacked and moved food, set-up the center, assisted with clothing and food distribution during all hours that the center was open, cooked and served a hot meal on Tuesday night, and cleaned and broke down the center at the end of the week.
Mano en Mano also works to refer workers and their families to important social services in the area. Organizations present at the center include: Maine Mobile Health Program, Maine Migrant Education Program, New England High School Equivalency Program, Maine Department of Labor, Pine Tree Legal Assistance, and Eastern Maine Development Corporation.
The welcome and resource center in Columbia is located at Faith United Methodist Church, 444 US-1, Columbia, ME 04623.
The welcome and resource center in Machias is located at Centre Street Congregational Church, 9 Center St, Machias, ME 04654.