Eight years ago, I accepted an invitation from the board of directors to jump in on an interim basis as the executive director for Tedford Housing. I am from away, from Auburn, and had worked in a similar organization in Lewiston-Auburn and felt I would be a good fit for the agency. The Brunswick community and the region were new to me, and I thought “I could do this for a few months” and then transition to my next adventure.

A few months turned into eight years of highly rewarding work on the mission of Tedford Housing, meeting and working with many wonderful people and organizations covering the spectrum of all that is Brunswick and the Midcoast.

When I “parachuted” into Brunswick eight years ago, I was so struck by how involved every sector of the community was and continues to be in the issues of persons experiencing homelessness. Together, we have made a lot of progress bringing the community together to understand the real story of real people who look to many of us during a critical and complex time in their life.

As I transition to a new part of my life, I do so knowing that the mission of Tedford Housing is strong, vibrant and, most importantly, vital to the healthy communities of the southern Midcoast region and its residents. The mission of Tedford Housing advances because all sectors contribute — Girl Scouts, elementary schools, churches, banks, business associations, Bowdoin College, restaurants, the library, volunteers and so many more. The mission of Tedford Housing is truly a team effort.

At the Middle Street office, I have met far too many individuals and families who are living in tents, in cars and trucks, or on living room floors with all of our emergency housing beds already occupied. We get to know the stories and the people who look to Tedford for guidance and direction. Fortunately, the Tedford staff is here and is an awesome group who work almost invisibly to help people find their pathway to home. I visit with our guests on Cumberland Street and Federal Street and just chat. Folks are waiting for the school bus, preparing dinner, getting ready to go to work, doing laundry or returning from grocery shopping. Many people return to Middle Street on their way to their new home sharing their words of thanks and smiles of joy. We smile as well.

Tedford Housing is not solely responsible for the needs of people experiencing homelessness. The mission advances because the social and human services assets of the region work together on solutions. An ecumenical group in Damariscotta / Newcastle meets monthly to generate new resources to assist people in need. Tedford provides outreach service at the Second Congregational Church every Tuesday in Newcastle. The Neighborhood Café in Bath opens its doors to people in need. My colleague in Rockland talks with me about a wider, regional response to the issues of homelessness. The Gathering Place, Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program and Oasis Free Clinics partner to bring hope and health to many. Volunteers bring the heat to the Warm Thy Neighbor heating assistance program. Conversations continue to grow on the topics of affordable housing, youth homelessness and a new model of a resource housing center for the region.

Whether you visit us at Middle Street for a good conversation, with a bag of cleaning supplies, proceeds from the very fun, entertaining Abby Road concert last weekend at Bowdoin, a check from a car wash, your individual financial donations, your family foundation contribution or donations to the United Way, please know that all of your many gifts are critical to Tedford Housing services being available 365-24/7.

I am so thankful for the many people of this area who have made my service to the mission of Tedford extremely rewarding. You have personally and professionally enriched my life, for which I am most grateful. I trust you will keep the conversation on homelessness loud and persistent.

Rota Knott, the incoming executive director, is eager to meet you and join the community at a time when a number of important initiatives are already underway.

Thank you to the board, volunteers and staff of Tedford Housing for your many skills, commitment, time and talents, working tirelessly as stewards of the mission creating healthy homes and healthy communities.

Wishing all a joyous holiday season and, one more time, thank you.

Craig Phillips is the outgoing executive director of Tedford Housing. He steps down Jan. 3, 2020. Giving Voice is a weekly collaboration among four local non-profit service agencies to share information and stories about their work in the community. 

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