Bridging the Gap helping with back-to-school shopping

Published: Aug. 22, 2022 at 6:28 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - As we continue to get ready for back to school, a nonprofit in Augusta says it’s noticing more adults shopping for clothing as well.

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

”We get a lot of clothes actually. We are really blessed to have amazing donors,” said Melissa Furrow, Bridging the Gap donations manager

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 is shopping for back-to-school items, not just for their kids, but for them as well.

“Since COVID, I have noticed a lot of adults that have come in looking for clothes for back to school, trying to get new jobs, different jobs, things like that. So, it’s really super important for us to have donors that care and to have the clothes to give out to these people, but because you can’t, like how do you build your way up?” Furrow said.

Each of the items donated are sorted and items like shoes are cleaned before they are placed on the shelves to be given out.

“The items are being looked over by at least three to four sets of eyes before they make it out to the floor just to be sure that there are no holes, that there are no stains, and that these items are in line with our mission which is making sure that people have clothes they can feel good about,” Furrow said.

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

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

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

“We give out over a thousand rolls of toilet paper a month, and we are always in need of toilet paper,” Hughes said.

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

Administrative Director Sarah Miller says it is a dual focus on immediate needs like the clothing and toiletries and long-term solutions.

“We really want to create an environment that feels good. It’s non-judgmental, and that also, you know, when someone comes in the door, when they go back out the door, we really want them to kind of be, you know, a jumping off place into a better circumstances. So, that’s just such a key part of like how we do things,” Miller said.

The organization also serves as a warming center during the cold weather.

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