Community service is far from new to students who are part of the JMG (Jobs for Maine Graduates) program at Caribou High School.

But a recently formed partnership with Aroostook County Action Program, and a network of community partners, is expanding JMG students’ ability to make a difference in a much broader community.

For the second year, JMG students are collecting non-perishable food items to help combat food insecurity in their communities. Last year’s effort produced approximately 2,200 cans, boxes and bags of food, which they then donated to a local food bank. This year, students hope to improve upon the initial success, aiming for 3,000 food items, and were looking for a way to spread the bounty of their donation to reach more people in the community. That’s where ACAP came into the picture.

JMG students began collecting food prior to the winter break in conjunction start of the school’s Winter Carnival. Their collection efforts continue for 21 days. By the end of Winter Carnival week, the students had already collected more than 1,200 food items with time to collect more. A team from ACAP met with JMG earlier that week to discuss their partnership and how best to distribute the food donation to affect the most Aroostook County communities, from the southern and central regions to the St. John Valley. A year and a half ago, ACAP erected easy-access food cupboards at locations in Presque Isle and Houlton. Since then, a network of similar cupboards have begun popping up in communities all around the region. ACAP Family Coach Heidi Rackliffe has connected with that network of food cupboards to coordinate a pick-up of the donation that will stock cupboards in Mapleton, Perham, Wade, Washburn, Caribou, Mars Hill, Presque Isle, and Houlton. To further the reach, and to make sure food makes it into all regions of Aroostook County, ACAP will distribute food throughout its nine locations from Fort Kent in the north to Dyer Brook in the south.

JMG students in Caribou performed more than 1,200 hours of community service last year, and have already exceeded that number for the 2017-2018 school year. Some of their time has been spent at multiple Caribou Recreation Center events, and also volunteering at the Caribou Marathon, Caribou VFW, United Veterans of Maine, concessions for all sporting events, food drives, Blankets for Babies, American Legion Jacket Drive, wrestling tournaments, basketball tournaments, Anti-Bully Walk, and Caribou Craft Fair – to name a few.

ACAP will receive the food donation and begin distributing to community cupboards by the end of March. The agency and JMG are hoping this partnership may lead to other opportunities for the two service-minded organizations to find ways to work together towards making life better in Aroostook County.

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