Peace at home and abroad. More community support for homeless people. Fewer fire deaths in Maine.

These are some of the goals for 2015 that were shared with the Kennebec Journal by community leaders in interviews around the Augusta area. The leaders expressed mainly optimistic forecasts for the New Year.

Brian Ketchen, owner of Dave’s Appliance in Winthrop, said his business is completing a good year, and he anticipates more of the same with a good economy stretching into the New Year.

“I think 2014 was a very good year,” Ketchen said. “Hopefully, we can continue that into 2015, keeping the guys on the road and everything running smooth. With the price of gas where it is, and the price of oil where it is, it encourages sales.”

Ketchen said sales of heat pumps that alternate between oil heat and electric heat, depending on which one is most cost efficient for conditions, have created a business boom for his company.

He said the heat pumps are “a very large part of our plan going forward.”

“We created six new positions in the last year. That’s extraordinary for us. It’s unprecedented. That gives us great optimism going into 2015.”

Ketchen also feels confident about the Maine economy.

“From a business standpoint, I think the whole state is going into a good stretch,” he said. “We don’t have an election this year, so that’s nice.”

John Richardson, executive director of Bread of Life Ministries since last May, said, “We’re looking to be the best at our foundational roots, feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless. We’re not looking to expand what we do next year. We’re looking to do what we do and do it better.”

Richardson said Bread of Life Ministries doesn’t have the ability to shelter more people than it did this past year, “but we want to get more people out of the shelter and get them housed so it will keep them housed.”

The coming year will mark the 30th anniversary of Bread of Life Ministries, which is a cooperative effort of several area churches and agencies.

“We survive on the support of our community,” Richardson said. “I want to connect more with the community and show them what we’ve been doing with their resources.

“We are looking for more ways we can connect our clients and our veterans with employers,” he said. “I’ve got some veterans right now who are skilled guys, but they’re having a tough time finding jobs.”

Richardson said Bread of Life hopes to raise more money in 2015 than it did in 2014. He said the agency’s soup kitchen served 2,000 more meals in 2014 than it did in 2013. That was 36,550 meals for 2014.

The homeless shelter served 500 people, including 180 children. Bread of Life’s veterans’ homeless shelter also was open.

“We hope to help folks find jobs,” Richardson said. “We hope to work better with the community and get them placed quicker. A shelter is great, but it’s not a permanent solution.”

When it comes to public safety, Monmouth Fire Chief Dan Roy said he’d like to see a reduction in fire fatalities in 2015. In 2014, 25 people died in fire deaths statewide, according to the state fire marshal’s office.

“If everyone could be more cautious, it would go a long way,” Roy said. “At a minimum, people should have workable fire detectors in their homes. Our firefighters want to develop a fire safety program. At the same time, the state is trying to get smoke detectors out there.”

Roy also said first responders are concerned with both domestic and international terrorism attacks.

“I’d like to hope we’re going to see less violence in the world from terrorism,” he said. “I hope people will report their observations to cut down on these events. People should watch out for each other and do their due diligence.”

Roy also is hoping that the nation will see a reduction of extreme weather patterns.

“I’m hoping the weather improves,” he said. “We’ve already had a nasty start to the winter season. Looking ahead to 2015, hopefully things will quiet down.”

In the religious realm, the Rev. Anne Roundy, pastor of both United Church of Monmouth and East Monmouth Methodist Church, said she hopes people are more civil in the new year.

“The first thing that comes to the top of my mind is peace,” Roundy said. “The situation in our world is just so troubling. I would love to see a return to civility.”

Roundy said she was speaking of all churches when she said, “In terms of the church, we’re changing our ways. Rather than despair about where the church is today, we need to be open about where the church needs to go. I do see glimmers of hope, Pope Francis being one of them. His papacy is just what we need.”

For Becky Fles, chairman of the SAD 11 school board, based in Gardiner, the new year brings opportunity to help those who are less fortunate.

“When I look around our community, I notice we have a lot of poverty and a lot of need,” Fles said. “But our community rises up and pulls together when there is a need. I would hope our community would recognize the need and rise up to help without being judgmental.”

Fles added, “I know there is goodness out there. We could spotlight good things that are happening. I would like us to do kindness just for the sake of doing it, because it’s the right thing to do.”

Fles said she would like to see more people in Gardiner getting involved with helping the poorest people in the city and “looking outside of what’s comfortable.”

Lawmakers headed to the State House for the new session that starts Wednesday say they are looking forward to helping Maine improve.

Rep. Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea, said she wants to continue to work on reforms to the state’s social service programs.

“I’m really looking forward to taking an in-depth look at Maine’s services and making sure they are aligning with the needs of the people of the state,” said Sanderson, who was elected to a third term in November and will serve on the Health and Human Services Committee.

With a Democratic House, a Republican Senate and Republican Gov. Paul LePage in office, Sanderson said she’s hoping for a spirit of bipartisanship.

“I hope there’s a better sense of working together than there was in the last two years,” Sanderson said. “With the Democrats in the majority, it was very difficult to have a voice from the Republican point of view. There’s was not enough effort to work together.”

Rep. Donna Doore, D-Augusta, is looking forward to her first term in the Maine House after serving on both the Augusta City Council and the Augusta Board of Education.

“My goal would be for everyone in the state of Maine to have health insurance,” Doore said. “I’m not sure that’s possible. A home for everyone that’s homeless in Maine is another goal. Also I wish that everyone could have a livable wage. I talked with one woman who was paid so low she had to work three jobs.”

Doore worked many years for the Secretary of State’s Office, and she said her expertise is in the field of transportation laws. She’s been named to the State and Local Government Committee.

On a personal note, she said she’s been given her first “all-clear” report after being treated for cancer.

“My chemotherapy and my radiation worked. I was very fortunate,” she said.

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