AUGUSTA — The Augusta Community Warming Center has to move, and officials expect it to open for the winter season at its planned new location at St. Mark’s parish hall by Dec. 15.

The center provides a warm, free place for anyone during the day and has for the last several years been at the Augusta Masonic lodge building in the downtown between Water and Front streets.

However, earlier this year the building owner notified the United Way the center would need to be relocated.

Rob Gordon, executive director of the United Way of Kennebec Valley, said the Masons plan to do renovations to the building and seek to rent that space out on a full-time basis.

After roughly six weeks of looking for a new, suitable location, a steering committee that oversees operations at the warming center agreed to move it to the lower floor of the parish hall at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church between Summer and Pleasant streets. It’s about a half-mile away from the former location.

Gordon noted they were looking for a centrally located spot not too far away from the previous location.

“We had to draw a pretty tight circle, because a lot of people walk to it, and we wanted to be within a reasonable distance to Bread of Life, because a lot of people go there (from the warming center) for a hot meal,” Gordon said. “We’re extremely pleased the St. Mark’s people were on board with what we’re trying to do and are seeing it as an extension of the ministry of their church.”

The parish hall is also home to Addie’s Attic clothing bank, Every Day Basics, which provides free items such as toiletries to those in need, and the Augusta Food Bank.

“It’s going to be a nice setup, having all those services under one roof,” Gordon said.

While the Augusta Food Bank is accessed from the Summer Street side of the building, the Augusta Community Warming Center will be accessed from the Pleasant Street side at 9 Pleasant St.

City Manager William Bridgeo said that could change at some point this winter because of the construction of the new Lithgow Library abutting Pleasant Street. He said construction, at times, may make it necessary to direct people to the warming shelter via Summer Street. He said signs will be put up if and when that is the case.

Bridgeo said the city, which does not fund the operations of the warming center, was relieved to learn it had a home for this winter.

“It’s very important to the city for it to be in place,” Bridgeo said. “Our police department will be very relieved there is some place on those viciously cold days, when someone might otherwise spend the day in the lobby of the police department, where people are able to go.”

Bridgeo said the location seems like a reasonable walk from the downtown area, where Bread of Life soup kitchen is located.

Bridgeo said the city’s only direct involvement will be providing city staff and vehicles to help move the furnishings of the warming center to the new location.

The warming center paid rent to the Masons and will also pay rent for the space at St. Mark’s. Gordon said the rent payment will be the same at the new location, $850 a month. He said Friday he expected to sign a lease soon.

Gordon said the shelter’s operations are funded by donations primarily made at electronic waste collection events held periodically. People are asked to make a donation when they are disposing of old computers and other unwanted electronic equipment.

This year, the warming center also received $10,000 from the Elsie and William Viles Foundation.

People may contribute to the warming shelter through the United Way of Kennebec Valley. Gordon said people may also donate toiletries to be distributed through Every Day Basics, which will share the spot at St. Mark’s with the warming center.

“One of the most thoughtful ways people can help out is with those basic essentials,” Gordon said. “People are extremely appreciative of those things many of us take for granted. If people want to make a cash contribution or want to give those kinds of things, that would be a huge help for the coming winter.”

Gordon said the move is planned for Monday, and the center will be open by Dec. 15.

The warming center will be in its seventh year this winter.

Last winter the center, which asks people to sign in every day, had 4,341 sign-ins. He said volunteers worked there a total of 1,381 hours.

Gordon said every year people who are using the center include families in crisis with young children.

The center will again be overseen by Director Deidrah Stanchfield.

Many have noted, in its years of operation, the warming center not only provides a warm place for people who may not have anywhere else to go during the day, but also a place for companionship and camaraderie for anyone.

“People need shelter and warmth, but they also need human contact and a little bit of kindness,” Gordon said.

At-Large City Councilor Cecil Munson, the city council’s liaison on the warming center’s steering committee, said the warming center has had great support from the faith community.

Last year St. Mark’s moved its church services out of its historic Summer Street church to the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church on Eastern Avenue after deciding it was too costly to keep operating the church building.

However, its parish hall continues to be active.

“Even though St. Mark’s Church moved, there is still a great deal of activity in that building, it is kind of a broad ministry,” Gordon said of the parish hall. “Our expectation is (the warming center) will be there until March 31. They’re comfortable hosting us for the winter, which I greatly appreciate. It’s our seventh year. It has turned out to be something people really appreciate and count on.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj


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