AUGUSTA — John Richardson’s wide-ranging career and education should serve him well as the new leader of Bread of Life Ministries, officials of the Augusta-based nonprofit organization said.

Bread of Life is known primarily for its Water Street soup kitchen founded by 10 local churches in 1984, and a homeless shelter on Hospital Street that opened in 1986.

But the organization also provides less visible services, including transitional and permanent housing for people unable to find housing on their own, the state’s only homeless shelter specifically for veterans, case management, life skills classes aimed at increasing people’s self-sufficiency and a day shelter.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity and everything Bread of Life does in the community,” said Richardson, 43, the new executive director. “I was actually surprised by how much the organization does. I was aware of the shelter and soup kitchen, but not everything else.”

Richardson started May 12 and takes the place of Dean Lachance, who was executive director for five years before departing to take a job with Portland-based Catholic Charities of Maine.

“We’re very pleased to have John on board, he’s going to help bring us to the next level,” said Sam Tippet, president of Bread of Life’s Board of Directors. “Dean was a great guy, we enjoyed him and are sorry to see him go; but John is the apt person to fill the shoes.”

Richardson holds bachelor’s degrees in legal technology and law enforcement, and recreational park management, and a master’s degree in science education, from the University of Maine.

He most recently worked for MaineGeneral Health for five years, as an administrator of outpatient practices with the Family Medicine Institute, running practices in Waterville and Fairfield. Before that, he was director of NFI North’s Sidney Riverbend Program, a secure residential mental health treatment center for youth.

Earlier, he spent four years planning and implementing Maine’s first statewide drug court system. He also has worked as a park ranger, is a registered Maine Guide, and put himself through college by working at the Charleston Correctional Facility, which he calls an eye-opening experience.

Tippet said it’d be an understatement to call Richardson’s experience broad.

He said Richardson was picked from a strong pool of “quite a number” of candidates.

“He just brings real enthusiasm to the position and a real deep sense of the value of the organization and mission of the organization, and we think he’s going to work to keep that mission going very strongly, which was very important to us,” Tippet said. “This organization needs a good, strong leader, and John has stepped in with both feet.”

Richardson and his wife, Laura, have lived in Augusta since 2000. They have two children — daughter Erin, 10, and son Daniel, 7.

Richardson is not an ordained church leader but said the Christian faith is important to him and his family. He and his wife have both led youth ministries.

He said he was attracted to the job because it looked like a match for his “experience with leadership in administration with a role serving the community and those most in need.”

Richardson said the organization is challenged, like many nonprofit groups, to bring in enough money to provide the services it does. He said Bread of Life has to turn people away from its Hospital Street homeless shelter every day because it’s full.

He said resolving those financial challenges will be a big short-term priority while, longer-term, he’d like the organization to do more targeted case management to help chronically homeless people break the cycle of homelessness. However, he said, because the organization is already stressed financially, grants would be needed to expand into targeted case management.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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