Last year, President Barack Obama encouraged the tradition of service as a feature of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday. This tradition continues locally through Wednesday, Jan. 20 with the Second Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Food Drive for the Thomaston Interfaith Fellowship Food Pantry and the Friendship Cushing Food Pantry.

Additionally, this year’s celebration will include a showing of a one-hour film of Dr. King’s life at the parish hall of the Church of St. John Baptist in Thomaston at 9 a.m. on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, Jan. 18. The church is located on the corner of Main and Green streets; use the Green Street entrance for the film. All are welcome.

Drop boxes for food contributions will be available through Wednesday, Jan. 20 at the Thomaston Public Library (including Friday Movie Night), Church of St. John Baptist, the Thomaston Interfaith Food Pantry at Watts Hall and the Cushing Public Library. All nonperishable food items are welcome, and a specific need exists for pastas, macaroni and cheese, soups, and canned tomatoes. Because the libraries will be closed for the holiday on Monday, Jan. 18, collection boxes will be available through the following Wednesday.

“It would be nice if we didn’t have to have the pantry, and thank God we do,” said Gwen Ranquist of the Thomaston Interfaith Fellowship Food Pantry, where she has served as volunteer director since its inception 18 years ago.

Last year there was an increase of 400 individuals using the pantry, and the need is growing in these depressed economic times.

“We saw new people almost every Tuesday and Wednesday of the year,” Ranquist said.

In 2009, 486 families were served, representing 1,895 individuals. The Martin Luther King Jr. Day Food Drive is another effort of the many kind community members who already offer contributions of food, cash donations or volunteer their time.

Kathy Macleod of the Friendship Cushing Food Pantry also reported a significant increase in the number of clients using the food pantry.

These events are co-sponsored by the Thomaston Monday Morning Meeting, affiliated with Organizing for America, and by the Thomaston Public Library, the Cushing Public Library, the Thomaston Historical Society and the General Henry Knox Museum. The Monday Morning Meeting convenes at 9 a.m. at the Church of St. John Baptist. All are welcome. To attend or join the mailing list, call Diana Beach at 354-7205.

For more information about the events, to set up another food contribution site, to explore alternative options for delivering food, or to make a financial contribution or arrange for a grocery gift certificate for one of the pantries, call Beach at 354-7205.