Dozens take advantage of services offered at St. Anthony of Padua Parish's MLK Day of Service

“Flu shots, haircuts, hand massages, nails.”

Lorraine Sullivan, a member of the Social Justice and Peace Commission at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Westbrook, shares some of the many services being offered at the parish’s MLK Day of Service.

“We tried to hit a little bit of everything,” she said.

Now in its fifth year, the day of service, held on January 15 in the hall of St. Hyacinth Church, aimed to bring together members of the community in support and fellowship, honoring the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who encouraged people to follow the example of Christ and be servants to one another.

“It’s a way to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. in a way that we feel really honors his memory, and at the same time, it’s just a wonderful community builder,” said Father Louis Phillips, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish. “We go beyond the confines of church or parish, hoping people from all over the neighborhood will join together to have a nice morning, to share some fellowship and a breakfast, and to find out what kind of services are available. We have all these organizations that have come out here and volunteered their time and their services to help make other people’s lives better.”

The many services offered included free blood pressure screenings and vaccinations from Northern Light Mercy Hospital, dental advice and free toothpaste and toothbrushes from University of New England dental students, and nutrition suggestions and free produce bags and bananas from SNAP-Ed. Also represented were Catholic Charities Maine, the Southern Maine Area Agency on Aging, and the Maine Volunteer Lawyers Project.

Individuals and businesses volunteered their time, too. For instance, Lynn Levasseur provided hand massages, while Monique Gaudet painted people's nails.

“I love just working with the community and just seeing people smile. I’m doing just a simple little service, doing nails, and it’s fun to see people light up,” she said. “We have a ton of options of colors, and it’s fun to sit there and pick one.”

There were also tables with hats and mittens brought in by Catholic Charities Maine and socks and underwear donated by St. Anthony of Padua parishioners.

“The church does what they call Undies Sunday,” explained Sullivan. “We collect underwear and socks, and the people were very generous as you can see. We really have a lot of stuff.”

While in the past, the Social Justice and Peace Commission promoted the event primarily to those who might need a hand, this year, commission members reached out to the broader community.

“We really wanted to encourage the whole community to come together and to be a more solid community. So, we opened it up to everybody,” said Shirley Gaudet, a member of the commission. “We want to let people know in our community what services are available to them and for them.”

“We want to give back to people. We want to help people, not just the poor but anybody. We want to encourage people to give back. There was one lady who came up to me, and she had a whole bunch of stuff in her arms. She said that she had gotten a gift card and saw a family sitting at the table next to her, so she gave that gift card to that family. It gives me goosebumps because that is the purpose – teaching people and encouraging people to give back,” said Rita Smith, chair of the Social Justice and Peace Commission.

While snowstorms have kept down crowds at some of the previous days of service, this year, thanks to the sunny weather, the hall was filled. Dianne, a Westbrook resident, said she came to enjoy the company of others.

“It’s kind of lonely where I’m living. There’s not much going on, and also, I was interested in finding out what they are doing here and maybe volunteering next year. I worked in social services all my life, so it would be good to get back into it and do something positive,” she said.

“I think we all need to be aware and realize that all our actions matter and that even the smallest gesture of kindness or understanding contributes to the larger good, which is the goal of equality for everybody,” said Eleanor Mavodones, a former member of the commission, who attended the event. “I think the Social Justice and Peace Commission is doing a wonderful job of bringing us together, all of us.”

The mayor of Westbrook, Michael Foley, who attended the breakfast with his son, said he, too, appreciated the parish’s efforts in support of the community.

“I think it’s a great event that the church has put on to celebrate Martin Luther King Day, while serving the community, like he would have done. Being able to offer the pancake breakfast and having all the different agencies that can help support members of our community is a great event," the mayor said. “Thank you to our friends here at St. Hyacinth’s for putting it on.”



Woman making pancakes
Woman receiving a hand massage
Man having his blood pressure taken
Woman making sausages
Southern Maine Area Agency on Aging table
UNE Students
Nail painting
MLK Display
Man holding a server a plate of pancakes.