KITTERY, Maine — The Wood Island Life Saving Station Association recently put out a 'Hail Mary' call to supporters to lend a hand to the men and women of the Coast Guard Portsmouth Harbor Station as they work without pay during the government shutdown.

On Saturday, at 22 days, this will be the longest government shutdown in United States history. Despite being without paychecks, members of the U.S. Coast Guard still have to perform their essential duties.

"Rescues don't wait," said Sam Reid, president of WILSSA.

The Coast Guard is the only branch of the United States military that doesn't fall under the Department of Defense, which remains fully operational. Instead, it is affiliated with Homeland Security, one of the departments impacted by the shutdown.

Thursday evening, WILSSA sent an email blast to its nearly 2,000 supporters asking to provide support for the local Coast Guard station during the shutdown, "putting aside whatever their politics are," Reid said.

Reid said Portsmouth Harbor Station has 45 men and women assigned to it, and their average age is 24. "It goes without saying this is an extreme hardship," he said.

After consulting with lawyers about giving money to federal employees, it was decided $20 was an appropriate number. So, WILSSA will provide $20 Market Basket gifts cards to the guardsmen at Portsmouth Harbor Station.

"This literally will be putting milk in refrigerators," Reid said. "These are young men and women. And they’re not paid much to begin with. Their mission is often overlooked. It is extremely important and dangerous."

Reid said WILSSA felt a responsibility to help out because of Wood Island's long history with Portsmouth Harbor Station. Before it was in New Castle, it was located at Wood Island.

Reid said WILSSA is accepting additional donations on its website. Those interested in helping should select the "donate" button.

Petty Officer Zachary Hupp, Coast Guard public affairs in Boston, said they're monitoring the status of the situation and keeping an eye out for updates. "We’re focusing on making sure that we’re continuing the mission," he said.

The next scheduled paycheck is Jan. 15. About 42,000 guardsmen are required to report to work without pay because they’re deemed essential employees.