FREEPORT — Visitors to Freeport this weekend can witness the annual lighting of one of the largest Christmas trees in the state, and can make a difference in a senior citizen’s life by donating a new or used winter coat.
L.L. Bean, Triad and the Maine Association of Area Agencies on Aging will collect winter coats for the second consecutive year from Friday, Nov. 20, through Sunday, Nov. 22. The “M4A” represents five area agencies and works to advocate for senior rights, legislative and social policies. The organizations provide services for elders from Presque Isle to Scarborough. Triad, with 16 chapters in Maine, works to reduce the criminal victimization of the elderly and to improve their quality of life.
Betsy Cantrell, vice president of the M4A Board of Trustees and a volunteer for Triad, said she was familiar with coat drives for children, and thought it could be helpful for seniors who can’t afford new coats or rising heating costs.
“We approached L.L. Bean and asked for their help, and they were enthusiastically supportive of the idea,” she said.
Janet Wyper, manager of community relations at L.L. Bean, said last year’s response was greater than expected.
“We hoped to collect about 500 coats and received 1,500,” she said. “People were giving the coats off their back for the cause.”
Wyper said for every coat donated, L.L. Bean gave a $5 donation to Keep Me Warm, a fund created to supply heating, food and weatherization assistance to those in need around the state. The company will make the same contribution this year.
Cantrell said M4A will distribute the coats to seniors throughout the state and will use its network of agencies to identify those in need.
“I was simply amazed with the turnout last year,” she said. “People drove 50 miles to donate coats, some bought new coats from Bean’s to donate, and others took the coats off their back.”
She said the weekend was a heartwarming display of Maine ideals.
“People gave so much and showed the most generous outpouring of support,” she said. “Being cold in a cold Maine winter is a crime. People donated coats because they care about the elderly.”
There will be volunteers in the lobby of the L.L. Bean flagship store to collect coats all weekend. To find out where coats are available in Cumberland County, contact Southern Maine Agency on Aging.
In addition to the senior coat drive, L.L. Bean will host a variety of holiday events starting Friday, Nov. 20, and continuing through December. The annual tree lighting ceremony will begin at 7 p.m. Friday in Discovery Park. To support local non-profit organizations, Bean will offer free gift wrapping, and memberships to several non-profits will be available for $10.
Author and filmmaker Ken Burns will sign copies of his book “National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m on Saturday, Nov. 28, and there will be a variety of other author events, children’s activities and local food displays.
The Northern Lights Celebration will also feature a variety of weekend workshops on snowshoeing, cross country skiing and fly tying and as soon as it snows, there will be Outdoor Discovery Schools winter walk-on adventures available.