Millinocket Thrift Shop Gives Residents Hope 

Jacqueline McDade has lived in Millinocket all her life and remembers when the Katahdin Paper Company ruled the town.Both the Millinocket and East Millinocket Mills were up and running.”It was bustling when the mill was operating and at its peak. Now it’s really a quiet town,” she said.The Millinocket Mill shut down in 2008, leaving more than 200 people without jobs.Now workers at the East Millinocket Mill could soon see pink slips. A deal to sell it and its sister mill is still pending.If it’s not finalized in less than 60 days, East Millinocket could close, too. It’s a scary thought for Jaime and Paul Renaud who own a restaurant and lodge in town.”If there’s not a mill here or some other viable economic resource the young people won’t stay here they’ll go away to get jobs.”Although the economy and the closures have taken a toll on Millnocket, non-profit businesses are booming.McDade spends two times a week volunteering at the St. Martin’s Thrift Store on Maine Avenue. It’s been dubbed the town’s department store.”We don’t have a store except the Dollar Store. There’s no place to shop, we have to travel,” she said.All of the items at the store are donated and raise money for a local food pantry.The store also provides financial support to the local emergency fuel fund.The thrift shop caught the attention of Senator Susan Collins, who stopped by Thursday.”This thrift shop helps to fill a big gap for the people in this area it helps give them a place to shop and it helps low income families meet their needs,” she said.The future of both of the mills is still unknown but Collins says she’s cautiously optimistic.”I hope that this time the purchase will lead to a period of employment and much needed stability for the region.”