CHERRYFIELD, Maine — Joe Ocampo said he wanted to help his neighbors in Washington County and found the ideal way—bringing them food during the COVID pandemic.
“It was a great opportunity to help those who need it and give back to the community,” he said.
Joe works for the Maine Seacoast Mission, which operates a food pantry in Cherryfield, serving homes all over that county. They’ve been doing it for years, but the demand doubled last year as many people were sidelined from work by the pandemic, and needed help to put enough food on the table.
For Joe, it was familiar territory. He grew up in Addison and still lives in Washington County, where many people struggle to make ends meet.
“I’ve had some family members need help like this,” he said, adding that over the past year he has seen a lot of need.
“All over Washington county where I’ve been, I can see the poverty and just glad I can do something to help.”
Most of the food comes from Good Shepherd, and the Seacoast Mission also gets donations from Shaw’s and Walmart, plus some local stores.
The food pantry currently serves about 600 households, according to the Mission, and Joe delivers to 100 of them each month.
The personal connections from those deliveries have grown as the months have passed.
“A year ago, I’d be gloved up, masked, hand sanitizer for everything, drop off the box on the doorstep, knock on the door and leave. But now I sometimes bring it in for people who can’t lift on it or need help with other stuff. And sometimes I have a full conversation with them.”
He said one woman wanted to pay him for the delivery, but he refused. When he stopped at her house again, there was a plate of cookies for him.
“It brought a smile to my face,” he said.
Joe said he intends to keep doing the work, helping his neighbors, and bringing smiles to them, as he brings food for their tables.