Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center celebrated its 10th anniversary Saturday evening with a special gathering at the Pepperell Mill in Biddeford. From left are Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant, Seeds of Hope Executive Director Rev. Shirley Bowen and State Senator Susan Deschambault. ED PIERCE/Journal Tribune

BIDDEFORD — Observing their first decade of service to the community, Seeds of Hope supporters gathered at the Pepperell Mill Campus in downtown Biddeford on Saturday evening to celebrate their accomplishments and look ahead to the future.

Created in 2008 on the site of the former Christ Church at 35 South St. in Biddeford, the Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center strives to be a lifeline for those who are struggling, offer care for those in need, provide advocacy for those who have been silenced, companionship for individuals who are alone, and show love for all who work through its doors.

“We could only do this with your help over the past 10 years and hopefully for another 10 years,” Rev. Shirley Bowen, Seeds of Hope Executive Director told those attending the organization’s 10th anniversary celebration.

The center is a nonprofit and charitable organization, non-sectarian and open to all people regardless of faith, according to Bowen.

She says that Seeds of Hope volunteers are guided by two basic tenets — mercy and justice. Mercy is shown to those seeking basic necessities such as food and clothing while the justice aspect is driven by advocacy initiatives like conducting the annual homeless survey in Biddeford or by providing individuals access to career services that can assist them in finding employment.

Seeds of Hope serves free breakfast and lunch to anyone in need five days a week, offers new and gently used seasonal clothing, job search support, health and educational programming from a non-judgmental standpoint, and resources to rebuild lives.

Staffed by volunteers who give generously of their time, Seeds of Hope also offers an array of specialized services to help those who’ve experienced trauma, violence and poverty or in need of help.

Bowen says nobody’s a stranger at Seeds of Hope and she calls it a place of extraordinary healing.

To that end, Bowen said that a new grant will help Seeds of Hope to launch a new Security Deposit Loan Program that will assist up to six families at a time in paying security deposits to move into permanent housing. She said many families who find themselves in homeless situations often can afford monthy rent, but lack the extra money initially required for security deposits.

“Again, we didn’t do this ourselves, it took support from the community to make that happen,” Bowen said.

The program serves meals to between 60 and 70 people per day and some are repeats.

“We project that we serve 500-plus individuals for a total of 17,000-plus meals a year,” Bowen said.

The annual budget for Seeds of Hope is $158,000. It receives $15,000 a year from the city of Biddeford for its Career Resource Center and $12,000 for its food program. In addition, the center has received $5,000 from the city of Saco for its Security Deposit Revolving Loan fund for Saco residents and $5,000 for its food program. The remainder of the Seeds of Hope budget comes from charitable grants and fundraising events.

Seeds of Hope also has teamed up with Portland’s Frannie Peabody Center to offer free and confidential Hepatitis C and HIV testing services and is starting a new book discussion group for veterans in partnership with the Maine Humanities Council, Volunteers of America and the Veterans Center in Sanford.

For more information about Seeds of Hope or to volunteer to help, call 571-9601 or visit seedsofhope4me.org.

— Executive Editor Ed Pierce can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 326, or by email at [email protected].

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