Bridging the Gap helps with back-to-school shopping

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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) — As we continue to prepare for back to school, an Augusta nonprofit says it’s also noticing more adults shopping for clothes.

Bridging the Gap is a partner program of United Way of Kennebec Valley.

“Actually, we get a lot of clothes. We are truly fortunate to have amazing donors,” said Bridging the Gap Giving Manager Melissa Furrow.

Bridging the Gap is a community initiative that provides people with basic needs like clothing or toiletries. Furrow is the donations manager who says she noticed everyone was buying back-to-school items, not just for their kids, but also for them.

“Since COVID, I’ve noticed a lot of adults coming in looking for back-to-school clothes, trying to get new jobs, different jobs, things like that. So, it’s really super important for us to have donors who care about us and to have the clothes to give to those people, but because you can’t, how do you progress? said Furrow.

Each of the donated items is sorted and items like shoes are cleaned before being placed on the shelves for distribution.

“Items are examined by at least three to four pairs of eyes before they hit the ground just to make sure there are no holes, no stains and these items are in line with our mission, which is to make sure people have clothes they can feel good in,” Furrow said.

Robin Hughes, volunteer and operations manager, says hygiene products are just as important for those in need, as their SNAP benefits do not cover them.

“In the month of July we had 750 people who needed basic essential hygiene items,” Hughes said.

Products like toothpaste, shampoos and conditioners and even toilet paper, which is one of the most requested items every month.

“We distribute over a thousand rolls of toilet paper a month, and we always need toilet paper,” Hughes said.

The organization also connects people to other resources such as rental assistance or healthcare resources such as medical bills.

Administrative director Sarah Miller says it’s a dual focus on immediate needs like clothing and toiletries and long-term solutions.

“We really want to create an environment that feels good. It’s non-judgmental, and that too, you know, when somebody walks in the door, when they come out the door, we really want that to be kind of, you know, a stepping stone to better circumstances. So that’s just a key part of how we do things,” Miller said.

The organization also serves as a warming center in cold weather.

They say they receive donated items year round and the best way to donate is to call and schedule a time. This number is 248-1782.

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