The outside of Senter Place in downtown Brunswick. Courtesy of Dee Perry

A local charitable fund based in Brunswick that serves around 30 Midcoast organizations annually is celebrating its 20th round of grants and over $2.6 million donated this year.

The Alfred M. Senter Fund was launched in 2002, and is named after Alfred Senter, longtime owner of Senter’s Department Store in downtown Brunswick which closed in 1995.

Senter died in 2000, although before his passing the former store was renovated to a 30-unit commercial space. Today, after expenses, rent payments from the building are designated into a trust – aimed at supporting and giving back the local community. When Senter died, the personal properties he owned were sold and also put into fund.

“He loved community, he was active in local and state government, he was very philanthropic,” said Dee Perry, the president of Senter Place and support staff for the fund.

Each year, the fund receives around 60 applications from organizations ranging from land trusts and food banks to artistic nonprofits and local libraries. In 2021, 35 organizations were awarded grants ranging from $1,000 to $15,000, totaling $164,000.

Alfred M. Senter Courtesy of Dee Perry

“We had an application from the Pejepscot Historical Society who needed a new furnace, so we supported that grant application. Come to find out, the person who was going to install the furnace was actually tenant here at Senter Place,” said Perry. “So, the rent they paid, went to the applicant for the furnace, which went back to the contractor for payment of the furnace.”


Other examples of grant recipients include the Brunswick Downtown Association, Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program, the local Habitat for Humanity branch, Growing to Give and Gulf of Maine Research Institute.

The Independence Association — a Brunswick-based nonprofit that supports around 350 people on the Midcoast with disabilities — is a recipient of the Senter Fund, starting with a grant 2002 for the development of a pottery studio.

“The Senter Fund has been a consistent and generous supporter of Independence Association,” said Carlene Bryon, the organization’s director of development and communications.

In total, Independence Association has received seven grants from the Senter Fund, receiving $7,000 in 2021. The organization is funded primarily through Medicaid reimbursements, according to Bryon, and additional grants allow the organization to accomplish projects and activities – like going to a Portland Sea Dogs game, for example – that would not be covered through the governmental funds.

According to Curt Dale Clark, the artistic director of The Maine State Music Theatre, the Senter Fund has been one of the organization’s biggest supporters — particularly for the children’s theater program.

A drawing of the outside of Senter’s Department Store. Drawing by Karl Saila

“Their funding helps us produce children’s theater at a level that is affordable for people,” said Clark. “The children’s theater is one of the most important things we do quite frankly because it creates audiences for tomorrow, and it starts kids on a path of imagination.”


In 2021, the Maine State Music Theatre received $5,000 from the Senter Fund. The children’s theater program gives kids aged three to 10 an opportunity to participate in three theatrical productions each year. Clark said the funds are used to increase production value through costumes and set, and offsets any loss for the program, which is typically not profitable.

Tedford Housing, a $5,000 Senter Fund grant awardee for 2021, is a Brunswick-based nonprofit that looks to address homelessness on the Midcoast. According to Rota Knott, the executive director, grants from the Senter Fund have helped support maintenance costs at the organization’s shelters over the years.

“We have to replace sewer lines at our supportive housing building, and so it’s not a sexy grant to a lot of grant makers, but it is the kind of things that is crucial for us to do the work,” said Knott.

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