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Hero's heartbreak: Donors now recipients at Cumberland Food Pantry

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Hero's heartbreak: Donors now recipients at Cumberland Food Pantry

CUMBERLAND — Call it a sign of the times: people who donated food to the local food pantry in the past are now in need of the food it provides.

But despite the increased demand, the Cumberland Food Pantry remains stocked for anyone to come and get a helping hand, thanks to a wide variety of non-perishable goods contributed year-round by community members.

The pantry, beneath the sanctuary of Cumberland Congregational Church, has been in operation since the 1980s. Congregant Jean Lamson has coordinated the space for about six years.

When she took the reins, it was serving about six families. Now it serves about 25. Lamson said the economic downturn has been driving up demand.

"We're getting people in here who are embarrassed to come in," she said. "They come in and say, 'I don't have any food, and I used to donate food here.' People who used to donate, now they're coming in as clients. It hurts, sometimes, to see."

The pantry's current food supply will take it through March, Lamson said. But the warmer months tend to see slimmer donations.

"Our food pantry is basically a little different than most food pantries," she said. "We exist on donations alone. ... And the schools, the churches, the scouts, they've all been phenomenal. Absolutely phenomenal. ... The community has been incredibly supportive and generous."

Lamson said her mother was brought up in a foster home in Scotland, and that people who had less were always in her heart. It is an inclination that Lamson has inherited, and her community service was recognized at a Maine Red Claws basketball game in Portland Dec. 3, when she was named the TD Bank Homecourt Hero.

Lamson was nominated by the School Administrative District 51 Parent Teacher Organization, Girl Scouts Troop 1684 and the Cumberland Congregational Church, according to Bethany Hanley, PTO co-chairwoman.

But Lamson prefers attention be turned toward the pantry.

Its clientele comes primarily from Cumberland, North Yarmouth and Falmouth, Lamson said, and she never asks their names.

"We don't ask questions," she explained. "If they come in, and they feel they want to take a part of this (collection), fine."

The pantry generally allows a maximum of two bags of goods per client. It is open the third Saturday of each month from 9-10 a.m., and will next be open this Saturday, Dec. 18. For people who can't be there at that time, arrangements can be made through the church office.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.