State of the Tree 2015

The Tree of Life just completed its 27th year of continuous operation in the Blue Hill. This quarter century of service to the Blue Hill peninsula could not have been done without the support of our 150+ volunteers, contributors and donors. The mission of the Tree of Life is to provide emergency and supplemental food to the community; to provide and sell good used clothing; and to foster selfhelp and education on the Blue Hill peninsula.

There were big increases in the number of local families who needed our help in 2011 and 2012, a slower increase in 2013 and 2014, and no increase 2015. The food pantry is open every Thursday from 9 AM to 3 PM. Right now we are serving over 200 families each week. Most people come from Blue Hill, Brooklin, Brooksville, Sedgwick, Castine, Orland, Penobscot and Surry but we welcome anyone who arrives at the food pantry door. Guidelines are posted for how much food people may take per week and the pantry is trying to offer more fresh produce and dairy. In 2015 we distributed about 6,000 pounds of food weekly including canned goods, dry beans, frozen meat or fish, fresh eggs and milk, cereal, pasta, oats, cornmeal, flour, sugar, apples, oranges, onions, potatoes, carrots, greens, squash and other fresh produce. More than half of the food we distribute is purchased from Good Shepherd Food Bank.. A tractor trailer truck arrives with our order every other Tuesday and is met by a crew of volunteers for the unloading process. We also bought about $8000 worth of produce from local farms using a combination of donation and grant money.

Some food is given to us free of charge from farmers, gardeners, gleaning initiatives, church groups, local businesses, service organizations and individuals. Our thrift store, The TurnStyle, is open three days a week. Clothing donations have been amazingly steady and sometimes to the point of being a challenge . At times last year, we had enthusiastic volunteers working in the sorting room seven days a week! Despite our bargain prices, the TurnStyle generated $184,283 in 2015 which represented 61% of our total income. The rest of our funding comes from generous individual donors and grants. Some people are hesitant to shop at the TurnStyle feeling that the clothing should be reserved for people who can not afford to buy their clothes at retail prices. We want everyone to enjoy thrift shopping at the TurnStyle where a wide selection of quality used clothing is available at great prices. Every purchase supports the food pantry operation. The Tree needs YOU. Credit cards are now accepted and gift cards are always an option.

Our educational mission is approached in many ways.  Studies of food insecurity show that the problem in Maine is not a lack of of food. Rather, it is the poor nutritional quality of the less expensive foods often purchased by people with limited incomes. The food pantry is making progress in providing healthier (low salt, low sugar) shelf stable food and more fresh produce and low fat dairy. Some of these foods are unfamiliar to our pantry users, so we offer tasting samples and recipes to introduce them. Social service agencies to use our lobby space to distribute information about local programs that can help with financial, medical and other family needs. Every spring the Tree of Life funds the Will Rosborough Scholarship for a George Stevens Academy senior. The scholarship provides $3000 a year for two years to attend a technical school or associate degree program. Most years, two scholarship recipients are reaping the benefits of higher education.

Thank you to all the people who support us in so many ways.

Judi Hilliker
Tree of Life Board President