2018-05-31 / News

Resource center to celebrate decade with education

By Abigail Worthing
Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD – The Rev. Shirley Bowen believes in abundance.

As executive director of the Seeds of Hope, a resource center on South Street, Bowen understands the stigma and myths that come with the discussion of homelessness and poverty.

“We face three myths on a weekly, or sometimes daily basis. The first is that people who seek assistance do so out of entitlement. The second is that those who need help have done something to deserve it. And the third is the myth of scarcity, that there’s not enough to go around. Seeds of Hope has always operated from a place of abundance. We believe that with all the resources out there, there has to be enough to go around.”

As Seeds of Hope celebrates its 10-year tenure serving the community, Bowen reflects on how far the organization has come since its 2008 inception.

“We used to serve coffee with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and now we have an active resource center in the community,” Bowen said.

Seeds of Hope will host a series of events over the next few months to celebrate the anniversary, all themed “A Decade of Difference.”

The first event is the Hope 2-Day Walk on Saturday, June 2 and Sunday, June 3. The 40-mile walk, which will be split into 20 miles per day, will raise funds for Seeds of Hope. The 14 walkers have each committed to raise $800 each, which is the cost of operation for one week at the resource center. The walk will take place through Biddeford Pool and Hills Beach, and will culminate with a barbeque at the Biddeford Pool Community Center on June 3.

The second event is Meet the Representatives, which will take place 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, June 8 at the resource center at 35 South St. The event, which according to Bowen is not a campaign event, is open to the public, and will not only give residents a chance to learn about Seeds of Hope and how it operates, but will give neighbors of the center a chance to engage with area political officials. Representatives from Biddeford, Saco and Old Orchard Beach have been invited, and the event will open with video messages from Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). Representatives from the two senators respective offices will be present at the event as well.

“We wanted to give people an opportunity to meet each other and share ideas,” Bowen said.

The anniversary events will finish with a party 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8. The event will take place at 40 Main St., and will honor the original founders and volunteers.

“We have the most unbelievable volunteers,” Bowen said. “Some of them are here once a week, for five hours a day. They give of their time and energy and are so compassionate.”

One of those volunteers is Donna Costello of Kennebunk, who has volunteered for six years, and has been on the Seeds of Hope board since 2015. Costello is a parishioner of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in Kennebunkport, and heard that Seeds of Hope needed volunteers. She has been a regular volunteer since.

“It’s just such a wonderful organization. People need a place to go, especially during the winter, and here they can be social and get guidance in seeking jobs,” Costello said. “I just keep coming back.”

In a May 24 interview with Bowen, she discussed housing problems that come along with the gentrification of downtown Biddeford and how it will affect neighbors that frequent the resource center.

“There are changes that will need to be made as the area changes. As rents get higher, people are pushed further out from the downtown, which will call for the expansion of bus lines for people to get to work. All these changes will need to be addressed over time, but we’re trying to work with city government to stay on top of it,” Bowen said.

Bowen hopes that sometime in the future there will be a push for financially viable housing available for low-income families and speculates that there may one day be tax-incentives for developers to bring more affordable housing to fruition. Seeds of Hope strives to operate with a “housing-first model,” which stems from the belief that when people are housed and cared for, the cost for other services go down.

“We’ve talked about whether Biddeford needs a shelter, but you know what? That’s not good enough,” Bowen said. “They need a home, not just a bed for the night.”

While Seeds of Hope has worked with and received funding from the city of Biddeford for years, Bowen was “very happy” that the organization has now also partnered with the city of Saco.

“We’re honored and grateful that these communities trust us to work in the best interest of their residents,” Bowen said.

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