ROCKLAND — A winter storm necessitated cancelling AIO’s Third Annual Fill the Strand event on Jan. 16; however, thanks to an outpouring of community support, AIO skated to a win. The community rose to the occasion and helped AIO “Fill the Strand,” not once but twice with online seat sponsorships. More than 175 individuals and businesses came together to donate more than $34,000 that supports AIO’s programs. In addition, AIO received 668 pounds of food donated before and after the event.

The impact of $34,000 is significant, enabling AIO to purchase and distribute food to the more than 250 families they serve each week for nearly three months. Every $25 financial donation received enables AIO to purchase about $100 worth of food through partners, including Good Shepherd Food Bank and wholesale food distributors.

AIO’s market-shopping model allows families to come shop at AIO as often as they need and to select food that suits their family best. As we head into the deep of winter, many families feel additional pressures on their budget with high heating oil and electricity costs. For these families, the food available at AIO’s market is a lifeline; saving money on groceries that can then be used to pay for other household expenses. For some families, that can amount to $500 per month or more. This is significant and meaningful help, and it is only possible thanks to the support of the generous community of donors.

“While the weather kept us from congregating at the Strand Theatre this year, it did not dampen the success of the event. I am awestruck by the community of supporters who rose to the occasion and helped us Fill the Strand, not once but TWICE with online seat sponsorships. Amazing!” says AIO Executive Director Joe Ryan. “The funds raised from the event will help us keep pace with our growth. With visits to our food pantry market having more than doubled last year, we want to be prepared to do the same — if not more — this year.”

AIO would like to acknowledge the generous support of this year’s Fill the Strand sponsors. Leadership level sponsors include First National Bank and First National Wealth Management, Fisher Engineering, Rockland Plaza and The Rope Company. Partner level sponsors include Camden Real Estate, Gartley & Dorsky, Knights of Columbus Council 136 and Lyman Morse. Champion level sponsors include The Inn at Ocean’s Edge, 250 Main, Journey’s End and Allen Insurance & Financial. A list of all sponsors can be found at aiofoodpantry.org/strand.