A new book group specifically for veterans is launching in Biddeford at the Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center on South Street. FILE PHOTO

BIDDEFORD — Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center will team up with veterans associations to launch a new book group for veterans to start Thursday, Nov. 1.

Rev. Shirley Bowen, Executive Director of Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center, is working with the Maine Humanities Council which is funding the program and several area veterans associations to start a Veterans Book Group in Biddeford. Participating associations include the Sanford Veterans Center, the Maine Humanities Council, Volunteers of America of Northern New England Veteran’s Services Team, AMVETS in Biddeford and Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1044.

Bowen said she found out about other book clubs at the Maine Military and Community Network Conference and decided to network with veterans associations to try to launch a book club in Biddeford.

At the conference, Bowen met Jan Bindas-Tenney, the Program Officer of the Maine Humanities Council. Together, they created the Veterans Book Group in Biddeford which will be held at the Seeds of Hope facility on South Street.

“This book group is one among several others that are offered in the state of Maine yearly, but this will be the start of a group in the Biddeford area,” Bowen said.

She said that the book club is for specifically for veterans for several reasons.

One reason is that among the community of people that visit Seeds of Hope, it includes veterans.

“There are certain needs that veterans who served have,” Bowen said. “Since veterans might connect on shared experiences, having a book group to specifically cater to those who are veterans or former military service members could help create a new sense of community.”

Bindas-Tenney said that this is a special space for those who have served to talk about their experiences together through text.

“They can articulate and see texts that reflect their experiences,” she said.

This could help establish new or additional community together, Bowen said.

“They can read together and process things together so that there can be a community around books and literature,” Bowen said.

This is a way to give veterans a sense that they are not isolated and can relate to ideas and new concepts while coming together and meeting other veterans in the community.

“So many individuals can benefit from shared learning,” Bowen said. “I’ve always believed literature is a way to bring people together.”

The book group will have a different theme each week that will be in accordance to the reading material.

“A diversity of reading; poetry, portions of books, short stories, songs. A variety of genres to mix it up,” Bowen said.

According to Bindas-Tenney, some of the themes that will be relevant to the book group will include three key terms: transition, belonging and coming home.

“If there’s a positive response, we hope to do one in the spring,” Bowen said.

The book group is planned to start Thursday Nov. 1 contingent upon getting five to six veterans to sign up for the group before it starts. It will be a six-week program that occurs every Thursday night, with the exception of Thanksgiving.

Kathryn Miles, a humanities scholar and Rebecca Padberg, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, will be facilitating the program in a combined effort to create the environment needed for this particular group.

Miles will assist in the aspect of introducing and understanding texts while Padberg will be able to connect with participants on an experience-based level.

The book group will meet at Seeds of Hope in their community room at 6 p.m. Thursdays and the group should go for about an hour to an hour and a half. There is no cost to join the book group and materials will be provided as well as refreshments.

For more information, contact Bowen at Seeds of Hope at 283-1783. Seeds of Hope is at 35 South St. in Biddeford.


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