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Welcome to Housing

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Chris Olsen began his volunteer-based program just a year ago, and it has already turned into a successful volunteer community effort.

Welcome to Housing helps formerly homeless individuals get back on their feet and gives them household items that they would not otherwise have the means of acquiring.

Welcome to Housing had many great accomplishments in 2012.

"Last October we had our first annual Goods for Good & Mega-Microwave Drive that involved three locations on three weekends," said Olsen. "We also received more sponsorship and support to build large shelving unites and materials to make the storage site in Old Town even more functional."

Last February, Welcome to Housing held its first annual Winter Whiteout Paper Drive in February at Shaw's Supermarket on Main Street to collect toilet paper, paper towels and napkins. The event came about because Welcome to Housing had heard that some people went down to their last dollars and "had to make a choice between buying food or toilet tissue," according to Olsen.

"Our goal is to do our best to fill the tremendous need that's out there for people trying to start over again,' said Olsen. 'If an individual or family starts out with nothing more than a $20 voucher to a thrift store, there's a lot of stress to set up housekeeping. With limited funds and resources it can make it hard to succeed. With Welcome to Housing filling in the blanks, the success rate is much higher, and that's a benefit to everyone in the community.'

Olsen gives a lot of thanks to social networking sites. He believes that the internet has been the best way of getting Welcome to Housing out there.

"Facebook and Twitter helped us reach out when we got a call just before 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve,' Olsen said. 'A person who had been through the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter a while back and had been helped by Welcome to Housing called to tell us about a family in need. Apparently someone had broken into their apartment and stolen the presents for their three children. Several families came together and either donated funds or went shopping, and we were able to get seven presents for each of the three children."

Throughout 2012, between 70 and 80 parties (which can be an individual or a family) were helped by Welcome to Housing.

"We've received a couple of thank you notes, but we've also had people come back and offer to volunteer to help with Welcome to Housing. One in particular has been there many times to work with another volunteer on the pick-up and delivery of larger donations," Olsen said.

Welcome to Housing has partnered with Penquis, Hope House, The Salvation Army, The Bangor Homeless Shelter and other organizations. Within Welcome to Housing's storage unit there are countless household items, from mattresses to can openers, and donations are always accepted.

Welcome to Housing is hosting the "Lunch and Learn" event on Jan. 31 from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Bangor Saving's Bank G. Clifton Eames Learning Center at 203 Maine Avenue in Bangor. There will be pizza. For more information, visit http://welcometohousing.com, "Welcome to Housing Bangor, Maine" on Facebook or "@Welcome2Housing" on Twitter.

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