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'Fill the Grand' food drive returns for second year in Ellsworth

Organizers hope to fill all 400 seats at the Grand Theater with groceries. Funds raised will help to feed families in need.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — The “Fill the Grand” food drive is back for a second year, and more local groups are teaming up to host what’s become a food and funds benefit drive.

The drive is hosted by the Loaves and Fishes Pantry in partnership with the Grand Theater in Ellsworth, and in collaboration with area businesses to help families in need of food around Hancock County.

Organizers of the food drive hope to have all 400 seats in the Grand Theater in Ellsworth filled with donated groceries.

The need for food has grown, and for food pantries to keep up with the demand, pantries have to find the means to shelve and stock food, past President and Board of Trustee member for the Loaves and Fishes Pantry Andy Matthews explains.

“Because the need has increased so much, during the past year, we have fed 25,000 individuals. That's a lot of food that's going out our door. That's a lot of cost for us,” Matthews said. 

Matthews attributes increased demand for food and the need to raise more funds to operate the pantry to the elimination of COVID-era SNAP benefits and rising fuel prices. 

Enrollment at the Loaves and Fishes food pantry has doubled this year. Vice President and Board of Trustee member with Loaves and Fishes food pantry, Max Dietshe says there are more than 1,500 families registered to receive services from the Loaves and Fishes Panty representing a 100-percent increase.

Each donated bag of groceries or a contribution of $25, Dietshe says, will supply a family with 10 pounds of food.

To meet and surpass the fundraising goal of $10,000, the pantry is relying on many area businesses for their support for the event and throughout the year.

This year, Darling Chevrolet remains the title sponsor, while Coastal Auto Parts, Maine’s Best Choice Pest Management, and Rooster Brother are major "orchestra seats" sponsors.

“They've all rallied around and chipped in to not only make these events a great success, but to keep us going day after day and year after year,” Dietshe said.

As for the Grand Theater, part of its mission is to foster partnerships with other nonprofits to serve the community.

For the Grand Theater, providing service has always been its hallmark, executive director for the Grand Nick Turner said. He says the theater was built after a devastating fire in the city of Ellsworth as a place of entertainment, but primarily as an "economic driver."

This year the Grand is celebrating its 85th anniversary and continues its hallmark tradition by facilitating the Second Act, Fill the Grand benefit.

"We have so many people who are coming into us in just dire straits where they are not getting enough income support or enough food," Matthews stated. 

Organizers hope that once again community and businesses will collaborate to make the event a success. 

To make a donation, drop off is available at the Grand Theater in Ellsworth between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Friday, September 15, or donate cash on the Loaves and Fishes Ellsworth webpage. 

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