2018-05-03 / Front Page

Senator: nonprofit changes its name, mission

By Abigail Worthing Staff Writer

SACO – The Saco Bay Center for Civic Engagement is transitioning from public service center to scholarship fund. The organization will continue as the Chenette Scholarship Fund, and will still operate as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

Founded in July 2013, the Saco Bay Center for Civic Engagement was formed to promote social responsibility in Biddeford, Saco and Old Orchard Beach. Founder Justin Chenette was named president of the organization in September 2013 after a board of directors had been put in place. Chenette is currently the state senator serving Saco, Old Orchard Beach, Hollis, Limington and part of Buxton.

The center was publically launched in January 2014, and members have since actively worked within the community, organizing events such as a Vietnam Veteran Welcome Home rally and a Seagull Scavenger Hunt, named after the high school’s mascot.

Since its inception, the center has donated nearly $10,000 to the community. Contributions to the community include Project Blue Light, a movement that provided members of the community with blue light bulbs to display in their windows to show support of law enforcement, and Friends for the Holidays, a project that sent out 200 handmade cards and ornaments to members of the community in need. The center has also made direct classroom grants for arts education and works to help connect veterans with job training.

The organization has sponsored two scholarships over the years. The Spirit of Service Scholarship is awarded to a graduating senior from Thornton Academy to students who exemplify excellence in community service and leadership. The scholarship was awarded in 2015 and 2016 for $500, and in 2017 for $300. The Future Entrepreneur Scholarship is presented to a student from Old Orchard Beach High School who plans to major in business, a vocational trade or tourism fields, and is $500.

The scholarships will continue as the Chenette Scholarship Fund, what Chenette calls a “more manageable” effort. Apart from being a state senator, Chenette is also a member of Saco Bay Rotary, president of downtown revitalization organization Saco Main Street, and vice president of Friends of the Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach.

Kathie Purdy served as secretary for the organization for one year, and vice president for the last two.

In an emailed response to a request for comment, Purdy wrote, “We just recently disbanded but we are carrying on the volunteer efforts within other volunteer organization that we belong to.”

Chenette said the center first opened for a creative outlet for philanthropic outreach; a need he felt was unmet within the community at the time of inception. However, he feels comforted by the surge of community outreach within Saco.

“We have since seen the revitalization of the Saco Grange, there’s Saco Main Street, we have three Rotaries nearby. We have done good work for the community,” Chenette said.

A representative for the Secretary of State Bureau of Corporations confirmed that the Saco Bay Center for Civic Engagement has filed an assumed name of “Chenette Scholarship Fund,” and are listed as in good standing without any violations.

In an April 26 interview, Chenette said the office of Saco Bay Center for Civic Engagement, previously housed at the Biddeford and Saco Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Water Street in Biddeford, has already been dismantled following a board vote in early April to transition into exclusively a scholarship fund. Chenette maintained that the transition left no need for a physical office, and plans to donate equipment from the office, a laptop and desktop computer, to the Arthur B. Huot Veteran Housing as part of the group’s efforts to help homeless veterans.

The Saco Bay Center for Civic Engagement will finish its current projects before finalizing its transition, with Chenette citing the VA2Walk as one of its final endeavors.

Contact Staff Writer Abigail Worthing at news@inthecourier.com.

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