Sunday, May 26, 2013
Yarmouth is one of Maine's more affluent coastal communities, with tree-lined streets, historic homes and well-funded public services.
So you might be surprised to learn that the local food pantry serves about 50 families a month, from babies to seniors citizens. Sometimes demand is so great, the pantry runs out of pasta, canned tuna and peanut butter.
That's when pantry volunteers send out an email and Deb Hopkins puts a hand-drawn "FOOD DRIVE" sign in the window of her hair salon on Main Street. Soon a mound of donations begins to grow as Snip & Clip customers and other townspeople drop off canned goods and other necessities.
Eventually, the pile fills the storefront window, demonstrating one woman's commitment to addressing a basic human need and her community's response to it.
"When the pile gets really high, it makes people stop and think and give," Hopkins said. "I do it to make people aware that there are families in our community and in surrounding communities who need our help, our support, our compassion."
Hopkins, 56, sees her highly visible shop as an arm of the Yarmouth Food Pantry, located across the street at the First Parish Congregational Church, and the food pantry at Freeport Community Services, where she also brings donations.
Hopkins downplays her effort to make sure her neighbors are fed. She also shares the credit with Veronica West and Sue Brown, two hairdressers who work in the salon that Hopkins opened 25 years ago.
"This is a piddly amount compared to what other people do," she said.
Food collection is just one way Hopkins addresses community needs. A master gardener, she also volunteers as the town's tree warden. She provides hairdressing services for local funerals, giving many residents their last hairdo. Also, she always has a hug ready for anyone who needs encouragement.
"When you touch somebody or hug somebody, there's such an emotional response that makes both people feel better," Hopkins said.
Hopkins considers herself pretty fortunate. She grew up in Yarmouth, the youngest child of a mechanic and boatbuilder who gave his wife and four children a modest but secure lifestyle. That included doing regular chores around the house, working in the garden and spending summers at the family cottage on Princes Point, which she still enjoys.
Hopkins and her husband, Richard, recently moved to North Yarmouth so she could have a larger garden. They have been married for 36 years. She has one stepdaughter and two grandchildren.
By collecting donations for the food pantries, Hopkins figures she's paying it forward in case she ever runs into rough waters. She likes to think other residents get something out of giving, too.
She knows some people who drop off canned goods at her salon have depended on food pantries in the past, and they make sure to give back once they get on their feet.
"As the saying goes, there but for the grace of God go I," Hopkins said. "Who knows what tomorrow's going to bring for me or for any of us? So enjoy today and be loving and giving."