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Waterville non-profit gives 1,000 free Christmas meal baskets to families

Staff members with the Alfond Youth and Community Center in Waterville say each Christmas meal basket is expected to feed between six and eight people this holiday.

WATERVILLE, Maine — On Saturday afternoon in Waterville, a line of cars proceeds down North Street into the parking lot at the Alfond Youth and Community Center. People dressed in festive holiday attire -- like a Santa suit, elf costume, and bright, bobbly holiday light necklaces -- greet passengers and drivers, delivering items through their windows. 

This is the AYCC's holiday food basket giveaway -- an afternoon dedicated to handing out 1,000 bags (filled with items like a ham or turkey, jar of applesauce, box of instant potatoes, canned green beans, canned corn, jar of peanuts, cheese, crackers, and hot cocoa) to families in need. Each bag is designed to feed between six and eight people -- so the nonprofit is hoping to feed thousands of people this holiday.

"If we can boost one person's mood and lead into 2021 feeling good, that's what we want to do," Sawyer Boulette, the wellness director at the Alfond Youth and Community Center, told NEWS CENTER Maine.

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For some families, the event is about a lot more than just food, though that support means a lot during an especially tough year.

"It means, to me, that this community is loving and caring. They're trying to provide things like this for us...to help bring people('s spirits) up," Cheryl Castonguay of Waterville expressed while sitting in her car in line. She says it's been a hard year for her family and their neighbors -- and it's comforting knowing they'll have a holiday meal. 

"It brings back, like, the memories (of) when I grew up," Castonguay said about the importance of maintaining that tradition.

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The AYCC makes it a mission to give back and help their community year-round -- but in a year when the state has been battling a pandemic, that mission hits a bit closer to home during the holiday season. 

"It makes us a better team," Ken Walsh, the CEO of AYCC, explained to NEWS CENTER Maine about how events like Saturday's benefit himself and his staff members. "It makes us better people when we're helping other individuals that are in need."

Walsh says the event wouldn't be possible without the help of its generous sponsors -- New Dimensions Federal Credit Union, Hannaford Supermarkets, Shaw's Supermarket, and Kennebec Savings Bank.

"It was really a no-brainer to sign on and be a sponsor of this event," Amanda Cooley, the committee engagement director at Kennebec Savings Bank, told NEWS CENTER Maine, stepping away from helping with the unpacking of cardboard boxes. "The AYCC is filling such a critical need in our community right now."

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It's an indication that the best way to get through the rest of this tough year is by doing it together.

"There's no better gift than anything else -- giving back," Walsh said.

To learn more about the AYCC, click here