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On Monday, January 17, 2022 AIO Food and Energy Assistance will host its second FILL THE STRAND food and funds drive to benefit AIO’s Food Assistance, Energy Assistance, Weekend Meal, and Diaper Assistance Programs. This event challenges the community to fill every seat in the historic theater with bags of food and funds for AIO’s programs.

The 2021 Fill the Strand event raised more than $27,000 in support for AIO, filling the theater seats nearly 3 times. The goal for the second event is to raise $30,000. AIO is grateful to its partners and sponsors the Strand Theatre, Allen Insurance and Financial, First National Bank and First National Wealth Management, Rockport Steel and Fletcher and Michael McNaboe of City + Harbor Real Estate Group for their support of the event.

Coordinators would like to encourage community organizations, businesses, and residents to do food and fund drives within their groups, workplaces, and neighborhoods to help with the drive. The food and funds collected will go directly to AIO’s programs that support Knox County families. Any individuals or groups interested in holding a food drive within their group is asked to contact one of the coordinators listed below for details.

Monetary donations are welcome – and in fact your dollar goes further since AIO can purchase food through partners at a competitive price. Individuals can sponsor a bag at $25, which will fill one seat in the theater. Those interested in sponsoring a bag through a financial donation can make it online at www.aiofoodpantry.org/strand.

Non-perishable food with a current expiration date is appreciated (no glass please). AIO would be grateful for donations of the most needed items including: ready rice pouches, macaroni and cheese and pasta; cereal & oatmeal; pop-top canned foods and Chef Boyardee meals; single serving lunch items; kid-friendly snacks; 100% juice boxes; shelf stable milk; snacks (granola bars, peanut butter crackers, 6-pack raisins). Whether a monetary gift or food donation – your support will help the people in our community who need it the most.

“At the Strand, we’re thrilled to partner with AIO again in this creative effort! We believe in supporting the good work of other organizations throughout our community, and nothing is more important than helping to make services available to anyone in Knox County with a need for food and heat — especially in these extra-challenging times,” shares Jessie Davis, Executive Director of Friends of the Strand Theatre.

“We are thrilled to continue our partnership with AIO and the Strand Theatre on this unique project. Together, we can make a real difference in the lives of our friends and neighbors,” said Mike Pierce, president of Allen Insurance and Financial.

“First National Bank is proud to support AIO’s Fill The Strand Event,” said Tony McKim, president and CEO. “We are grateful for the critical services AIO provides our neighbors in need in Knox County.”

The impact of this event is significant. “Last year’s event provided a tremendous amount of food when we needed it the most” said AIO executive director Joe Ryan. “Facing an even more challenging winter this year, we expect the needs within the community to be even greater. The Fill The Strand Event will provide much needed relief at exactly the right time.”

Food collection sites have been established at area businesses, including Allen Insurance & Financial offices (Rockland and Camden), The Strand Theater, First National Bank (Rockland branches), and AIO Food and Energy Assistance (Rockland). On January 17th volunteers will be at the Strand Theatre between 9:00-2:00pm to receive food and funds donations. For more information about the event and how you can participate please contact event coordinator Leila Murphy, email hidden; JavaScript is required. Event information can be found at www.aiofoodpantry.org/strand.

About AIO Food and Energy Assistance: For over 30 years AIO has provided critical food and heating assistance to Knox County families. Funding for AIO’s programs is needed more than ever as food insecurity in Knox County is projected to increase 46% overall. Knox County ranks among the highest food insecurity rate in the state. Child food insecurity is projected to reach 28% (a 52% increase). In 2021, AIO has supported 1547 individual households and has distributes nearly 400 meal kits each week during the school year. AIO’s Energy Assistance Program helps households with heating assistance or electrical disconnection prevention – which is critical as winter begins. Last winter AIO distributed 450 energy assistance vouchers, totaling $108,000 in support. The need for assistance is real and is not going away anytime soon given the ongoing pandemic.