ELLSWORTH — Most of us have seen the photo.
The one where Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) is sitting cross-legged wearing his (now iconic) winter jacket and oversized mittens hand-made by a Vermont teacher.
His expression says he has about 15 other things to do besides attend the Jan. 20 inauguration of President Biden.
The image has since gone viral online. Sanders and his mittens have been Photoshopped into countless scenes shared wildly on social media.
Here in Downeast Maine, replicas of the mittens are being auctioned off, bringing in hundreds of dollars to help local nonprofits.
“I saw the Bernie memes like everyone, and it was kind of a fun, big thing,” Trenton resident Mary Ann Smallidge told The American. She realized shortly after seeing the picture, “I made a pair [of mittens] like that for my son” last year.
Using old sweaters, Smallidge has been a longtime crafter of “recycled mittens.”
After seeing the photo, she searched her “sweater stash” to find the remnants of a brown sweater, patterned with tan- and cream-colored triangles.
She made a pair for her husband and started brainstorming how she could make others to raise money for the Community Closet and Healthy Acadia.
After getting authorization from Katia Brophy, the administrator of the Bar Harbor Barter and Swap Facebook page, Smallidge auctioned off the mittens for Healthy Acadia.
“It was a huge success,” she said.
The effort raised $820, which included the highest and second highest bids, matching bids and an anonymous donation.
“Healthy Acadia just does so much with [their] food programs,” Smallidge said.
“I was so impressed with how much they do for this community. It has a special place in my heart.”
The organization that is committed to building healthy communities in Hancock and Washington counties.
Smallidge’s father-in-law is a recipient of food boxes Healthy Acadia packages and delivers.
The food boxes have been especially helpful for him amid the pandemic, when he was no longer allowed to visit his wife of 68 years, who recently succumbed to Alzheimer’s, for their daily lunch dates.
“I can’t thank them enough,” Smallidge said.
She donated another pair of mittens to the Community Closet, which provides food, clothing and other staples to the community.
The organization auctioned the mittens on its Facebook page. Bidding ended Sunday, with the top bid at $128.
Auctions of various items occur every week on the organization’s Facebook page, with proceeds going toward daily operating costs.
The organization offers its customers 10 free items, as well as free food, books and hygiene products. All other items are available at significantly reduced costs.
With the auctions covering operating costs, “That really helps us to keep things as cheap as possible,” Community Closet Director Jackie Wycoff explained.
She said that throughout the pandemic, the Facebook page saw an influx of members join, with members telling her the online interactions “brought them joy.”