My Place Teen Center in-kind project manager Jim Godbout chats with the center President and CEO Donna Dwyer and York County Commissioner Robert Andrews when county officials toured the former St. Andre Church in Biddeford on a recent day. York County Commissioners contributed $1.5 million from its allotment of American Rescue Plan Act funds to the $2.8 million renovation project. Courtesy photo

BIDDEFORD — The painters have begun their work at St. Andre Church on Bacon Street in Biddeford as part of a major renovation of the former house of worship to be home for My Place Teen Center. It is one step of many that have already taken place like adding new wiring and new plumbing, installation of a new heating and ventilation system, becoming ADA compliant, creating a commercial kitchen, and much more.

The original electric light fixtures, bagged at the moment to protect from dust and other products of renovation, have been converted to LED, said Jim Godbout, in-kind project manager of the renovation. Murals have been preserved — covered and taped — to be revealed again when the work is complete.

The old Roman Catholic church that served the Biddeford community for many years and shuttered since the last Mass was held on Dec. 31, 2010, 101 years after it was dedicated, will again be a hub of activity in Biddeford. The after-school program will serve as a place where young people ages 10-18 from Biddeford and surrounding communities can drop by, enjoy a meal, learn life and job skills, get academic help and more.

It will be a spot, said My Place Teen Center President and CEO Donna Dwyer where young people can “be safe, and valued and respected while they’re here.”  In addition, where they learn skills to be a healthy, responsible adult.

My Place Teen Center is expected to be up and running by fall 2024 — a bit later than originally planned, but with the COVID pandemic scuttling the original timeline and work still to do on the old church, the opening date was revised.

The renovation project was estimated to cost $2.8 million. Enter York County government, which has provided more than half of the funds needed to renovate the old building. Looking for ways to use the county’s allocation of the American Rescue Plan Act, York County Commissioners in 2021 awarded $1.5 million to the teen center project. The commission was looking for projects to make lasting impacts. In addition to help fund the teen center, they provided money for a social services hub in Kittery, a dredge project to benefit coastal regions, a new substance use recovery center, a regional first responder training center, among others.


Several county commissioners recently took a tour of the former church and future teen center, owned since 2014 by Southern Maine Affordable Housing, a companion agency to Biddeford Housing Authority.

“It is going to be a vast improvement to this area and serve the teenager’s needs,” said Commission Chair Richard Dutremble. He said the center is needed for teens living in Biddeford and in the surrounding communities.

“It is money well spent,” Commissioner Richard Clark said.

“I think it will benefit the community greatly,” Commissioner Robert Andrews saud.

When complete, My Place Teen Center will own the main floor and balcony sections of the building, while SMAH will retain ownership of the vast basement. SMAH Director Guy Gagnon said the agency is currently looking at options for the space it will own.

As well as the county’s contributions to My Place Teen Center, there have been other contributions, including about $650,000 of in-kind support organized by Godbout, and $200,000 in cash donations, all for renovations. About $650,000 is needed to complete renovations and about $3 million for center programming and sustainability. Dwyer said, a capital campaign is ongoing.


My Place Teen Center was founded in Westbrook 25 years ago. In 2016 and 2017, Dwyer recalled, the first plans to open a second location – in Biddeford — emerged. A public meeting was conducted at the old church in late November 2019 and peoplewere ready to move forward, to begin the process and raise funds. There was support — but then the pandemic took place.

In response, My Place Teen Center opened a temporary location in Saco in 2021 and later moved the center to a temporary location on Graham Street in Biddeford, where Dwyer estimated about 40 young people take part. She knows that number will grow, once the Bacon Street facility opens. She said she’s expecting 100 young people to drop by regularly for a meal, for conversation, for fun and to learn and grow.

The building is retaining the original plaster and woodwork, and sunshine lights up the stained-glass accents.

My Place Teen Center hopes to host an open house for all sometime prior to the September 2024 target opening, Dwyer said. Former parishioners, those who have worked on the project, and those who have watched it take form as well as the general public will get an opportunity to see the renovated building.

Turning the vision to reality took three components, Dwyer said, the building itself, courtesy of Southern Maine Affordable Housing, Godbout, who, Dwyer said offered to “corral everybody” for in-kind support, and the “yes” vote on the ARPA funds from York County Commissioners.

“Because of ARPA (funds) this became a 100 percent guaranteed reality,” she said.

Comments are not available on this story.