Freeport Community Services has chosen its director of programs to be its new executive director after a five-month search.

The search to replace Paula Paladino, who resigned in March, was competitive, with multiple candidates, but Sarah Lundin rose to the top as the best fit for the role, interim Director Liza Moore said.

Lundin Contributed / Freeport Community Services

Lundin, 37, of Cumberland, said her initial focus will be to determine if programs can be updated to better serve residents.

We are looking to make ourselves a one-stop shop for the community. People who use services bounce around to get their needs met, and it can be a full-time job for that person,” Lundin said. 

The nonprofit Freeport Community Services offers a number of programs ranging from rental and heat assistance to a food pantry and thrift store. It relies on donations and sales from the thrift shop to support the roughly $800,000 yearly operating budget and the more than 130 families that use its programs.

Sarah Jacobs of Freeport said FCS and Lundin specifically have been a big help to her family, including the money to send her kids to summer camps that have built their self-esteem and inspired them to volunteer on their own.

“I was scared to ask for help, but I did, and since then Sarah has kept up and made sure they can help,” Jacobs said.

Her sons, 14 and 16, have dyslexia and ADHD and have been bullied and beaten up at camps in the past, she said. FCS helped get her boys into camps that better fit their interests and have built their self-esteem and confidence, she said, and Lundin has been hands-on to make that happen.

As a single mother, Jacobs couldn’t have afforded the camps without the help of FCS, she said.

Lundin first started at FCS in 2015 as community services coordinator before becoming programs director in 2020.

She said she’s always been a helper, initially wanting be a veterinarian before moving into the field of social welfare. She worked in the Westbrook General Assistance office, but wanted something with less “rigid” parameters, she said.

“I couldn’t say no to one more person. I felt I’d be more adequate at a nonprofit,” she said.

Her priority as director now is to measure the community’s needs and how they might have changed and to prepare for an anticipated increase in requests for assistance when COVID-19 relief measures such as increased unemployment benefits or food programs come to an end.

“A lot of emergency relief programs not only met emergency needs, but general, actual needs in the community,” Lundin said. “So while we are seeing an increase in food stamps and extra funds that address it, my concern is that when they go away there is an impact.”

Some things have already shifted, she said. More homeowners reached out for help during the pandemic, compared to pre-pandemic clients being mostly renters.

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