“Well, that’s the food pantry for you!”
Woolwich’s Ellsworth Stone was answering Wiscasset Newspaper’s question, what did he think of the big, handwritten sign on newsprint paper, reading “Mr. Ellsworth Day,” behind him on an inside wall of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church. Volunteers for the Hodgè Street, Wiscasset church’s Help Yourself Shelf said the sign, a vegan chocolate cake and Monday afternoon’s gathering were to show Stone how much they appreciate his handling of bottle after donated bottle.
Ellsworth counts them where he works at Maxwell’s Market on Route 27. Customers, if they want, can give their redemption money to the pantry or other causes, he explained. He said the other day, someone donated a small trailer load of bottles to the pantry. He thinks that is great, and he thinks the pantry is, too, for helping fill a great need to get food and other items to people. “There are a lot of people in this area that can use the help. Matter of fact, a few years ago I came here,” he added.
Longtime volunteer Gretchen Burleigh-Johnson made Monday’s cake from a World War II recipe. She said bottle redemptions have yielded more than $2,000 so far this year. Those funds went toward a new two-door cooler, now in use, helping keep foods safe, she said.
Burleigh-Johnson said watching Stone work last Friday gave volunteers the idea to honor him. “He works hard (and) functions as an important cog in the waste stream. I also see him as a symbol, as it were, for all the anonymous people who deposit their returnables to help the Shelf's work,” she wrote in an email ahead of the event.
“We're thankful for all the bottles and cans that people donate, of course, but his work is thankless. Week by week, the work of counting, sorting and redeeming those five cents really makes a difference in what we can offer.” Wiscasset Transfer Station has donation bins for the pantry, she said.
Stone, 67, has been in bottle redemption about 10 years, the last several at Maxwell’s. He has partly retired, from 40 hours a week to 35 now. What does he do with those five hours? “Go home and rest.”