FREEPORT — With temperatures in the single digits and snow piling up faster than it can be removed, standing outside for 24 hours doesn’t sound like fun.
Freeport Community Services knows that not everyone is able to keep warm this winter. It hopes having people stand outside overnight will not only raise awareness of the problem, but will raise money to help those who need it.
The 11th annual FCS Freeze Out is happening this weekend, starting Saturday, Feb. 14, at 10 a.m. and ending at 10 a.m on Sunday, Feb. 15. FCS staff and volunteers will stand outside the First Parish Church at 40 Main St. during the day and throughout the night to collect non-perishable food items and to raise money for food and fuel assistance.
“I think the communities of Freeport and Pownal are truly amazing in their capacity to help their neighbors,” Town Council Chairwoman Melanie Sachs, the executive director of FCS, said. “It’s really an amazing community event.”
Sachs said the number of people coming to FCS for assistance has been increasing. Last year FCS saw a 14 percent increase in the number of families using the food pantry and a 22 percent increase in the number of heating assistance applications.
“Most of the folks that we assist are for emergency reasons or are at or below the poverty line,” Sachs said.
Sachs said FCS’ goal for this year’s Freeze Out is to raise $20,000, with half going to the food pantry and half going towards fuel and heating assistance. The agency would also like to receive at least 1,000 pounds of food items. As of Tuesday, FCS has already raised $8,000 through sponsorships from local businesses and organizations.
In addition to the Freeze Out, the Freeport Rotary is holding a “Stuff the Truck” event at Shaw’s on Lower Main Street on Feb. 14 from 9 a.m.- 3 p.m., where people can donate food items.
Sachs said people in town who use FCS’s services are very grateful for the Freeze Out event and that it creates a cycle of support.
“In my experience, people use the assistance when they need it, and when they don’t, they want to give back,” she said.
Sachs said over the years there have been cases of people donating food after having previously used FCS as a resource, and that it’s amazing to see.
“People have brought in a jar of peanut butter or some noodles and have said, ‘FCS has helped me in the past and now I want to give back,'” Sachs said. “That really gives you goosebumps.”
Sachs said seeing the community come together in such a meaningful way makes bearing the cold all night worth it.
“It does get long and it does get cold,” she said, “but knowing that you’re helping others in the area gets you through the 24 hours.”