My Place Teen Center is looking to open at the former St Andre church at 75 Bacon St. in Biddeford in the summer of 2023, offering an array of programs to area youth 10-18. Tammy Wells Photo

BIDDEFORD — My Place Teen Center Inc., is targeting July or August 2023 for the opening of a big new space for youth in Biddeford.

To seal the deal, York County Commissioners, which in October had allocated $1.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds toward the renovation of the former St. Andre Church on Bacon Street where the center will be located, on Feb. 16 authorized County Manager Greg Zinser to sign the contract on the county’s behalf.

The executive director of the initiative, Donna Dwyer, is enthusiastically looking ahead to opening in Biddeford, and to a big, grand opening celebration in the fall of that year.

“Let’s shoot for that,” said Dwyer.

My Place Teen Center Inc. which has had a facility in Westbrook for many years, will provide an array of services for youth — including daily meals, a youth leadership academy, a restaurant job training program, homework assistance, programs called Get Urban Kids Outside! and Making Personal Choices, peer support groups and a variety of other services supporting young people ages 10-18 from Biddeford and the wider area. All programs and services offered at My Place Teen Center are free.

“All these services address the disproportionate and exacerbated impact COVID has had on our youth, especially those with underlying mental and physical health conditions,” the contract notes. “Overall, the teen center will enable our community to become more resilient and able to more quickly recover economically and in public health.”


The contract is between York County and Southern Maine Affordable Housing, the development arm of Biddeford Housing Authority, which owns the building, purchased as part of a package of properties in 2014. The conversion of the building is a joint effort between SMAH and My Place Teen Center Inc., and once the property is renovated, it will be jointly owned by the two entities.

Renovations to the former St. Andre Church in Biddeford are expected to commence soon, making way for My Place Teen Center, which offers an array of free programming to youth 10-18. A summer 2023 opening is targeted. Tammy Wells Photo

The county’s designation of ARPA funds for the project includes roof repairs, flooring, painting, windows and doors, plumbing, heating and ventilation system, security and electrical upgrades, fire alarms and more, including materials and labor.

Biddeford Housing Authority Executive Director Guy Gagnon commended the County Commission. He said the organization had been easy to work with and there has been good communication. He said there has been a lot of planning for renovations.

“We know we have to wait for the clock to start ticking before spending money,” said Gagnon. “We’re really excited about (the project).”

The new center is projected to serve 70 to 100 young people from Biddeford and the surrounding area each weekday and serve about 9,000 meals a year.

The idea to bring My Place Teen Center to Biddeford first surfaced four years ago.


“We got a lot of ‘no’s’” in the quest for financial support, said Dwyer in October.

But there have been early supporters, she said, including the Virginia Hodgkins Somers Foundation, Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution, Davis Family Foundation, the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation, Biddeford Savings and Northeast Delta Dental — and now, York County government.

“This is the lynchpin that makes the project viable,” said Dwyer of the county ARPA funding when it was first approved.

In all, the renovation project is estimated at $2.8 million. According to the My Place Teen Center website, in addition to the $1.5 million from York County’s ARPA allocation, the initiative has an additional $200,000 in gifts and about $650,000 in in-kind support — about $450,000 short of the total renovation cost. The figures do not include program and operational costs, which also come in at $2.8 million; a capital plan is ongoing.

My Place Teen Center Inc. was able to secure funding to provide some services in the area and opened a temporary space at the Saco Valley Shopping Center in the summer of 2021.

“We have not been letting the grass grow,” said Dwyer, noting the temporary Saco space. “(We’re) serving kids, serving meals, and hoping we’re having an impact. We are still doing what we do — transforming kids’ lives, and in some instances saving lives.”

York County government was awarded $40 million in federal APRA funding and conducted public hearings a year ago, seeking input from residents and organizations on potential projects. There are a number of initiatives in the planning stages, including looking into costs associated with a potential first responder training center, and expanded substance misuse recovery services, among others. Commissioners have also approved $750,000 toward the Fair Tide Wellness Service Hub — a Kittery-based organization which helps the homeless — and are expected to act on a regional dredge request later this spring, among other potential initiatives.

“We are very excited about this agreement being formalized and the project moving forward to serve teens in Biddeford, Saco, OOB and surrounding towns,” said County Commission Chair Allen Sicard. “We are in good hands with the leadership of Biddeford Housing and the My Place Teen Center.”

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