JAY — OTIS Federal Credit Union kicked off a new initiative last November, aimed at combating hunger locally. An “Angel Tree,” decorated by staff with angel ornaments, was displayed in the Credit Union’s teller area through the end of December. Individuals wishing to donate were able to choose an angel representing RSU 9, RSU 38, RSU 73, RSU 78, MSAD 52, or MSAD 58, and were given the option of sponsoring a child’s lunch in the respective district for one day, one week, two weeks, or four weeks. On Jan. 23, 2020, the Credit Union disbursed checks for the total amount donated to each of the six school districts’ lunch programs.
The credit union recently announced that its Angel Tree’s inaugural year was a resounding success. Credit union staff and members, as well as members of the wider community, donated a total of $2,571.65. Funds disbursed by OTIS FCU will be used to help pay down or eliminate student lunch debts. RSU 73 received $1,651.10 in donations; RSU 78 received $313.50; RSU 9 received $307.05; and RSU 38, MSAD 52, and MSAD 58 each received $100. In all, the Angel Tree’s fundraising total was equivalent to the cost of 937 school lunches across the districts.
Sheila Raymond, business manager for RSU 78, said that OTIS FCU’s donation will be used to help pay the outstanding lunch balances of several Rangeley families with the greatest need. “With the assistance of Holly Austin, school social worker, and Lindsey Savage, school nurse,” these funds will be distributed amongst students whose families applied for meal benefits but either did not qualify and were close to the State’s income guidelines, or who did not qualify last school year but qualify for meal benefits now and have past due balances.”, said Raymond.
“In total, we were able to completely pay off the meals balance for nine families, and help an additional eleven families get closer to taking care of their balances,” noted Andrew Hutchins, director of food services for RSU 9. Unfortunately for some children, the meal(s) they have at school is their only decent one they have during the day. With the rise in the minimum wage and the extremely low unemployment we’re experiencing, over one hundred students district-wide no longer qualify for free or reduced-price meals. This places a burden on many families who are not used to budgeting for school meals and a tremendous burden on the district trying to collect unpaid balances. Your donation has gone a long way to ensuring students continue to have access to quality nutritious meals.”
OTIS FCU, which is active each year in raising funds for the Maine Credit Unions’ Campaign for Ending Hunger, created the Angel Tree after speaking with school administrators following lunch program donations made in October 2019. Confronted with the magnitude of the lunch debt issue and the extent of the need within area school districts, OTIS staff felt compelled to do more to help end hunger at the local level.
“We truly take the credit union movement’s tenets of ‘people helping people’ and ‘concern for community’ to heart here,” said Sarah Hayes, OTIS FCU’s director of Marketing and Communications. Last year, OTIS placed in the top 25 of credit unions statewide for its Ending Hunger fundraising efforts and was able to donate more than $10,000 to community food banks throughout 2019.
“This fundraising effort was a true testament to the communities we live in,” said Kim Turner, president/CEO of OTIS FCU. “We are very fortunate to live and work in an area where there is so much care and concern for the well-being of each other – and in this case, the students within the six school districts in our field of membership. Food insecurity is real, and it gives us peace of mind knowing that students that may not have had lunch will now have it because of the generosity of the people within our local communities.”
PHOTO: From left, Ben Roberts, compliance officer/trainer at OTIS FCU; Sheila Raymond, business manager for Regional School Unit 78, in Rangeley; Sarah Hayes, director of marketing and communications at OTIS FCU. (Submitted photo)