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Teen collects donations for homeless and asylum seekers

Julia Swett started Giving Tree of Maine to collect donations needed for the homeless community and asylum seekers.

STANDISH, Maine — While some question if asylum seekers should be allowed into the United States, a teenager from Standish is doing what she can to help.

Julia Swett is spending her summer, like many Mainers, lakeside at her camp in Standish. In between relaxing and enjoying the water, she's busy donating her time to the organization she started called Giving Tree of Maine. The 18-year-old asks for things like hygiene products, clothing and food to fill boxes that will go to non-profits of her choosing. 

"It's not even just us, but just the community as a whole, saying, 'yeah, I can give you a pair of gloves, yeah, I can give you some socks,' and that is just such a big deal to somebody else, even if it's something so small from us," she said.

More than 200 people have arrived in Portland in the last month seeking asylum. That's around 65 families from Africa and most of them staying at the Portland Expo Center. 

RELATED: Hundreds of asylum seekers flood Portland, Maine

Swett doesn't question why they are here, or the politics of if they should be allowed in the country. She only looks for a way to help. 

"I love meeting the people. I also like hearing their stories. I hear stories of people coming over and what they kind of face," Swett said. "We don't see that over here. We're very isolated, but we shouldn't be."

In 2016, Swett was recognized with a Teens Who Care award by NEWS CENTER Maine for her volunteer work. She would go to Buxton Elementary School to help kids with their reading and also volunteered her time to help younger cheerleaders in her squad. One of her longest running accomplishments has been the seven years of helping athletes during the Winter Special Olympics.

"The biggest take away is just how the littlest things are impacting people so greatly," she said.

At the end of her summer, Swett will traveling to Florida for her first year of nursing school. 

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