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Program enables poor to help themselves, and others

August 18, 2002|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

HANCOCK - Mary Pelletier's widow's pension barely covers her monthly bills, so she welcomed the opportunity to volunteer for the Interfaith Service Coalition in Hancock in exchange for discounted groceries, she said.

"That little bit of extra food really helps," said Pelletier, 54, of near Hancock.

She pays $5.25 a month as a member of the service coalition's Self Help in Partnership Program, a United Way-funded program which supplements low-income families' monthly food budgets by providing them with additional food in return for the small monthly fee and at least two volunteer hours each month.

Pelletier volunteers about 40 hours a week at the service coalition's thrift store, agency Executive Director Debbie Cohill said.

"I like doing it. I grew up poor and other people helped us. I want to give back," Pelletier said. "It gives me a wonderful feeling to help someone else while I'm helping myself."

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Self Help in Partnership is one of four Interfaith Service Coalition programs that United Way of Washington County funds to help promote self-sufficiency, United Way spokesman Bill Bulla said. United Way this year allocated more than $18,830 to the service coalition, he said.

That money helps pay for the fresh produce, meats, canned goods and other food items the service coalition purchases from local grocers and larger food banks and for gas to fuel the vans that deliver food to clients without transportation, Cohill said.

Pelletier said she's been so pleased with her volunteer experience and with the quality and variety of the estimated 15 food items she receives each month that she's recruited other families for the Self Help in Partnership program.

"It's really great for older people and single parents," Pelletier said.

About 80 families benefit from the program each month, Cohill said.

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