AUGUSTA — Dean Lachance, leader of Bread of Life Ministries for the last several years, is leaving the organization that provides shelter, food and other assistance to local people in need.

Lachance, executive director of Bread of Life for the last five years and an eight-year employee there, is leaving to become director of business development and strategic growth for Portland-based Catholic Charities of Maine.

The nonprofit Bread of Life operates a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, 17 transitional housing units, 64 permanent housing units, the state’s only homeless shelter specifically for veterans, and provides case management and other services for homeless people and others in need in Augusta.

Lachance, an ordained Catholic deacon, said he wasn’t looking for a new job, but he stumbled across the Catholic Charities job and found it too tempting an opportunity to combine his faith with his work in the nonprofit sector.

“I absolutely loved working for Bread of Life,” Lachance said. “It had to be the perfect opportunity for me to leave. It was just one of those situations where you can’t say no to the right thing that comes along. It’s an opportunity that combines my business background, my nonprofit background and my faith background.”

He plans to leave by April 11.

Sam Tippet, longtime president of Bread of Life’s board of directors, said the search for a new leader for Bread of Life is underway and has already drawn some response from applicants, which he said is encouraging. However, he noted replacing Lachance will be difficult.

“Dean is an amazing person and has been a wonderful executive director of Bread of Life,” Tippet said. “He has done a lot of great things to help us get our financial health in order. That’s very important, that financial soundness, in furthering our mission of helping the homeless, helping homeless veterans.”

Lachance said he’ll miss Bread of Life, where his position allowed him to have direct connections with both people and businesses in the community who help Bread of Life help others and clients who get “a helping hand up” from the organization.

He’s most proud of Bread of Life’s efforts to provide a full range of services to help people in dire circumstances improve their lives.

“It’s great to be able to see what I’d call a continuum of services, from food and shelter to housing and case management and our center for life skills. A continuum that allows people to go from a very troubling situation and be able to move on to self-sufficiency.”

Lachance, who recently moved to Windham, said he feels Bread of Life is in a strong position to continue its work, and noted the precedent for that was set before he came to the organization.

In 2009 Bread of Life added a 10-bed overflow shelter, next to its existing 20-bed homeless shelter on Hospital Street, though the shelter is still forced to turn people away because of a lack of space. Bread of Life also partnered with others in the creation of the Cony Village development during Lachance’s tenure and created a program to help veterans buy new homes at Cony Village.

Bread of Life was founded in 1984 as a soup kitchen, opened its homeless shelter in 1986, and now has 20 employees and an annual budget of $1.4 million.

“It’s a tremendous loss for Augusta and our community’s social services,” said City Manager William Bridgeo, noting Lachance has worked closely with the city to address local residents’ needs. “Dean is full of integrity, creativity and energy. He’s that rare individual who can relate to people regardless of financial status and social position.”

Keith Edwards – 621-5647kedwards@centralmaine.comTwitter: @kedwardskj