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Call to participate in the Welcome to Housing community alliance

The University of Maine Topics in Professional Writing class is launching an awareness campaign on behalf of Welcome to Housing (WTH), a non-profit organization that functions in the Penobscot County region as a homegoods bank. The founder, Chris Olsen, leads efforts in supporting newly-housed Mainers with the help of several dedicated volunteers. 

A homegoods bank operates similarly to a food bank by accumulating a wide range of household items. Furniture, kitchenware, mattresses/bedding, tools, cleaning supplies, paper products and more are donated to community members in need. They also provide adaptive equipment. Those transitioning from a shelter or recovered from substance abuse are offered essential products without a financial barrier. Other circumstances include people escaping domestic violence, displaced by disasters, re-entering society from corrections and immigrants moving to Maine.

The goods provided by WTH depend on what is available, as the majority of its inventory is received through local donations, which must be usable and of good quality. The organization is willing to seek out specific items that would improve the quality of life for its clients. Underprivileged individuals and families are encouraged to use WTH as a resource.

Those relocating this year or in possession of underutilized items are invited to donate to the cause. Monetary donations are accepted via PayPal. Checks, payable to Welcome to Housing Home Goods Bank Inc., and cash may be mailed to Welcome to Housing Home Goods Bank 499 Broadway, PMB #333, Bangor, M.E. 04401. 

The UMaine/WTH awareness campaign partnership, led by Professor Kathryn Swacha and WTH Founder Chris Olsen, will officially be underway on April 1. Students formed groups to promote the cause on campus and via traditional or social media. The class intends to collect donations and increase the number of volunteers by producing sign-up sheets, posters, flyers and stickers. 

“I would love to see more people understand what we do,” said Olsen. “Also, to really have a better understanding that there is no particular type of person. You know, we’re all people and stuff can happen. It’s like a perfect storm sometimes.”

The predominant message of the campaign is as follows: “Welcome to Housing helps people transition to their own living space by providing furniture and household necessities.” Topics in Professional Writing students promote partnership, advocacy and volunteerism in service with WTH. Students are working in pairs on specific aspects of the awareness campaign:

Jade Hichborn and Stefan McClure are contacting 30 businesses in the area to encourage inventory and financial donations. Their goal is to receive a 20% response rate and bring in new donors and sponsors. 

Mak Hallam and Sarah Spencer are redesigning the WTH webpage to gain more interaction. Post-launch, they anticipate a 10% increase in traffic on the site and a 5% increase in donations within a 60-day window. They hope to include at least five client stories on the new page.

Aimee Ouellette and Nicole LeBlanc plan to enhance the social media presence and update its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. They expect a 20% increase in online traffic and 25 new followers across multiple online platforms. Ouellette and LeBlanc are reaching out to Black Bear Mutual Aid to collaborate and potentially create an introduction post geared toward UMaine students. Similarly, Brianna Lemarier drafted a script for WMEB radio station to broadcast on 91.9 FM. 

Alyson Thompson and Eliza Estabrook have reserved a table at the Memorial Union on April 12 and 19 leading up to UMaine Spirit Week. They expect to generate approximately $50 in donated funds and that a total of 10 people or more will sign up to volunteer. Free snacks, stickers and other goods will be provided to those who visit the table. 

Maddie Williams and Maya Farber took on print media efforts by designing stickers and tear-off flyers to spread across UMaine. They hope to recruit student volunteers and increase awareness about WTH as a distinct organization and what it has to offer.

Brady Kaelin and Lindsay Todd established a research team to gauge client and volunteer data through two surveys. Additional forms may be created for specific story interviews and more detailed accounts. Both Kaelin and Todd will volunteer to interact with affiliates of WTH. 

WTH needs involvement from businesses, houses of worship, clubs and civic organizations, media, student groups and individuals to expand its mission of being a reliable resource for the at-risk population of Maine.

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