“We are long-time donors to United Way, but we decided to get more involved this year,” said John Ryan, President of Wright-Ryan, a 36 year old Portland based construction company, following his receipt of the Rookie Award at Monument Square early this afternoon.
“We know it helps the community and this event also helped build community within our company. It was a project that so many of our employees got involved in,” Ryan said. Ryan is a resident of Munjoy Hill and his office is on the West End of Portland.
There were eighteen (18) other teams involved in this 4th annual United We Can campaign kickoff, food drive and sculpture contest today. Four other awards were announced as today’s Food Drive. Best in Show was won by an enthusiastic Maine Health.
Competitors in the sculpture competition began building them at about 8:00 am – 11:30 am out of food being donated to local food pantries. The award ceremony began about 12:15 pm and ran until 1:00 pm. Following the event today Wayside Food Program was expected to distribute the collected items to food pantries throughout Cumberland County. Last year’s event broke its own record for Cumberland County’s largest one-day food drive, collecting enough food for 28,163 meals.
In Cumberland County alone, 5000 households depend on food pantries every month. Nearly 35,420 people have been identified as food insecure in Cumberland County. This year’s campaign kickoff brings every one together to show their support and ensure our neighbors have healthy food when they need it most.
Liz Cotter Schlox, President & CEO of United Way of Portland greeted the crowd of on-lookers to the event at Monument Square. She thanked everyone for coming out and supporting this important campaign. She said that 35,000 people suffer from food insecurity issues currently. This year marks the 90th anniversary of United Way and the non-profit has changed from time to time to help the community get through its latest challenge.
Furthermore, 64% of low-income school students suffer from food insecurity and 50% of renters in Portland can’t afford to pay rent much less for other basic necessities she said.