Tree of Life turns 30

This year the Tree of Life celebrates its 30th year of operation in Blue Hill. We started as a great idea and a small operation housed in the basement of the Congregational Church. The food pantry and the thrift shop wandered around the village for a few years until we finally found our permanent home on South Street in 1994. Both the TurnStyle and the Food Pantry have grown and matured over the last thirty years but our mission to provide emergency and supplemental food to community members in need has always been at our core.

The Tree of Life is a 501c3 charity staffed by over 100 volunteers. The food pantry is committed to providing nutritious food to families in need. Every Thursday from 9 to 3 we distribute fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, milk, frozen meat/fish as well as shelf stable staples like canned goods, pasta, soup and beans. More than 200 families visit the food pantry each week but most people don’t come every Thursday. Families come to the pantry when their food supply and financial resources get low.

The people who need the pantry are seniors on a fixed income, people with disabilities and chronic health issues, single parents, young working families struggling to make ends meet and people facing unexpected emergencies like a sudden illness, an accident or a fire. All we ask when new people register is their address and the number of adults, children and seniors in the home. We have them sign a form that says that the family income falls within stated USDA guidelines.

This past year the food pantry extended its mission by providing healthy snacks for students at both George Stevens Academy and the Harbor School. A school volunteer picks up fresh fruit, protein drinks, granola bars, fruit cups and other healthy foods that are available to any hungry student. About two thirds of the money we spend on food comes from the sale of donated clothing at the TurnStyle. The remainder comes from cash donations, grants and local food drives.

The Tree of Life depends on volunteers to do jobs like sorting clothes six days a week, working in the thrift shop on Tuesdays Thursdays or Saturdays, unloading tractor-trailer trucks of food from Good Shepherd Food Bank, repackaging bulk foods and stocking shelves in pantry, helping people transport groceries to their cars, greeting and registering people at the pantry door, transporting clothing we do not use to Goodwill, picking up free USDA food in Cherryfield and hundreds of other things that need doing on a regular basis.

If you would like to help, please send your donation to Tree of Life, PO Box 1329, Blue Hill, Maine or make an online donation using PayPal.  Join us as a volunteer by stopping by the TurnStyle or Pantry to talk one of our volunteer managers. Everyone is welcome to visit both of our operations. We’d love to give you a quick tour.

— Judi Hilliker, President, Tree of Life board