Timbo’s Helping Hands, A Grassroots Organization In Lewiston
On a side street off of outer Sabattus Street in Lewiston is a modest home. People come and go all day long. This is the home of Barbara Violette and her husband Jason Hall and their two chihuahuas, Cappy and Baby. It's also the home of Timbo's Helping Hands.
A few years ago Barbara’s brother Timothy died unexpectedly. Timmy, as Barbara calls him, had a troubled life. He battled with addiction and homelessness for much of his adulthood. He knew hardships but also knew compassion. “My brother had his issues, but he would never let the children of any house he was staying at go hungry. He would do whatever it took to feed the kids wherever he was staying”
Barbara and Tim were familiar with being a child who had no food in the house. Growing up they experienced food insecurity. According to the Good Shepard Food Bank website the USDA estimates that 16.4 percent of Maine households, or more than 200,000 individuals, are food insecure. The number of Mainers who are food insecure decreased slightly from 2014 to 2015, but our rank compared to other states slipped. Maine now ranks 9th in the nation and 1st in New England for food insecurity.
This was the inspiration for Timbo's Helping Hands. Barbara, along with her mother Carol, collects, sorts and distributes donations of food, toiletries, personal hygiene products, and cleaning supplies for those in need in the Lewiston/Auburn area. What started as a small way to pay tribute to her brother has grown into a much larger effort.
Barbara currently serves as many as 20 families a month with varying needs. As we looked over her storeroom at her home late one afternoon before Thanksgiving, she spoke about one father who rides his bicycle from downtown Lewiston to her home on outer Sabattus St to get food for his two small children. "He rides his bike here and gets food. Sometimes he does odd jobs for me and I've referred him to others and he's gotten work that way. He volunteers his time at the Red Cross. He's amazing" The majority of those seeking assistance are single mothers, many of whom are seeking assistance of food and gifts for children for the holidays. Her main goal for the holiday season is to provide a ham dinner for the families seeking help. She is also seeking individuals to "adopt" the families seeking gifts for holidays for children.
When asked what items she sees the most value from she mentioned pastas and sauces, but also cereal because "kids love to eat cereal" and they can often fix it themselves, toiletries that people can't purchase with their EBT cards, and the ever present need for toilet paper. Laundry detergent and dish soap and pet foods all are welcome donations. When cash donations come in Barbara and Carol will scour the sales ads and find the best deals. She's receives donations of fresh foods as well: eggs, onions, apples, and potatoes are all popular donations. While going over the items on the shelves she expressed her worry about how she had dwindling supplies and how she was going to provide for the families who come to her.
Timbo's Helping Hands could be a full time endeavor for Barbara and Carol but Barbara also can be found working at various locations throughout the year whether its Ricker Hill Orchards in Turner or Ricker Hill's Tasting Room at Wallingford's Orchard in Auburn. This winter she'll be running the lift at Lost Valley in Auburn.
Currently Barbara is asking for volunteers to help her sort the donations and deliver to those who can’t get to her. She has people seeking donations on a daily basis. Students who are seeking their community service hours for graduation requirements as well as retired individuals are encouraged to reach out to Barbara or Carol by messaging them on the FaceBook page for Timbo's Helping Hands