LEWISTON — The latest in a series of Hopeful signs by artist Charlie Hewitt was dedicated Monday night before it is sent to war-torn Ukraine “to bring light to those people to let them know that they’re seen.”

Flanked by Neokraft Signs owners Mike Mathieu and Shane Moffett, Mayor Carl Sheline and state Rep. Margaret Craven at City Hall, Hewitt said the gesture from the city, which is still healing from the Oct. 25, 2023, mass shooting, is a testament to the community’s resilience in being able to spare hope for people in need of some.

“To think that Lewiston, after what it’s been through, still has enough strength, power and joy to be able to send light out … to another country to face what it’s facing is really a gift,” the Lewiston native said.

He said the idea came from friend, artist and adventurer Katarina Weslien, who packed a handful of “Hopeful” bumper stickers before embarking on a two-month teaching trip in Ukraine. After her first week, Weslien sent Hewitt a picture of locals holding up the bumper stickers and smiling.

“It didn’t take long for me to reach the point to say, ‘hey, if you want one, we have one,’” Hewitt said. “So, we’re going to send this out to Ukraine to bring light to those people to let them know that they’re seen. Just like us, here in Lewiston,  need to be seen. That was the message, and light is how we see each other.”

The multicolored, lighted sign was built by Neokraft Signs of Lewiston for the city of Uzhhorod — over 112,000 residents — in western Ukraine.


Another of Hewitt’s Hopeful signs has hung on Lewiston’s prominent Bates Mill No. 5 building on Main Street for nearly four years.

The message found its place through the COVID-19 pandemic and a contentious presidential election in a country “that seems angry and divided with itself,” Hewitt said.

When the mass shooting occurred last year, the sign became almost like an old flag, he said, enduring conflict and tragedy without being politicized “or turned into anything but what it is.”

Lewiston native Charlie Hewitt, second from right, speaks Monday with NeoKraft Signs President Mike Mathieu, left, and Chief Operating Officer Shane Moffett at City Hall in Lewiston during the dedication of Hewitt’s Hopeful sign that will be sent to Uzhhorod, Ukraine. Rep. Margaret Craven is at right. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

With the help of Neokraft Signs, at least 14 other signs have been installed in Portland, Rumford, Augusta and Bangor. In November 2023, a Hopeful sign went up in Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston after a fundraiser Hewitt supported generated $60,000 for the city of Lewiston’s Families and Victims Fund.

The sign also appears in various spots on the East Coast, including Maryland, New York and New Jersey.

Neokraft Signs co-owner and Chief Operating Officer Shane Moffett and co-owner and President Mike Mathieu said Monday that having their craftsmanship on display down the mid-Atlantic coast is an honor.


“We’ve had the luxury and pleasure of working with Charlie and him entrusting us to bring his visions to reality is really nice,” Moffett said. “But to be able to spread our craftsmanship not only just in Lewiston, but in other parts of the world … is quite a big (thing), really.”

Born and raised in Lewiston, Mathieu said it’s nice to share a bit of his hometown with a community across the world in need of the sign’s simple message.

Artist Charlie Hewitt speaks Monday at the dedication of his Hopeful sign at City Hall in Lewiston. The colorful sign will be sent to the city of Uzhhorod in western Ukraine “to bring light to those people to let them know that they’re seen,”  he said. Standing with him are NeoKraft Signs co-owner and President Mike Mathieu, left, and co-owner and Chief Operating Officer Shane Moffett, whose company made the sign. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

“It’s a great thing to be able to say and it’s a legacy we’re looking to carry on,” he said

Mayor Sheline said the opportunity for the city to send a literal message of hope is a gift.

“Ukraine definitely holds a special place in our heart and this sign … gives us hope and I’m very thankful we can send our hope to Uzhhorod.”

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