AUGUSTA — The Augusta Community Warming Center opens Tuesday in a new location, but with the same mission — to provide a safe, warm place of refuge.

The center is scheduled to open at 9 a.m. at St. Mark’s Parish Hall at 9 Pleasant St.

The parish hall, located between Summer and Pleasant streets, is also home to the Augusta Food Bank, Addie’s Attic clothing bank and Every Day Basics, which provides free toiletries and other items to those in need. Those services are now together under one roof with the warming center, which provides a warm, free place for anyone to spend time during the day, every day of the week.

“We’re really excited to be here. It’s a well-kept facility and already very well known in the community for having a variety of services,” said Deidrah Stanchfield, director of the Augusta Community Warming Center. “It makes sense to have all these things together in the same place. It’s wonderful to be in a space that can offer so much for those in need.”

For the last several years the warming center, which is funded by donations and fundraising efforts, chief among them periodic electronic waste recycling days, has been located in leased space within the Augusta Masonic building in the downtown between Water and Front Streets. However, earlier this year the Masons notified the United Way the center would need to be relocated because they had other plans for that space in the building.

After about six weeks of searching for a new home, the steering committee settled on the lower floor of St. Mark’s Parish Hall, which is about a half-mile away from the former location, according to Rob Gordon, executive director of the United Way of Kennebec Valley.

Members of St. Mark’s Church no longer hold services in their historic church building and instead meet at Prince of Peace at 209 Eastern Ave., but the parish hall next to St. Mark’s Church remains an active part of the ministry, said the Rev. Erik Karas, priest-in-charge of St. Mark’s.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity that fits very well with the other outreach ministries St. Mark’s does out of that parish hall,” Karas said. “We’re pleased to be able to help the community in that way. Our hope is to keep the parish hall functioning and being a place for service and outreach in the community. The warming center is just a perfect fit for the other ministries we do there.”

The warming center will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week.

It will use a separate, Pleasant Street entrance from the food bank, which is accessed from the Summer Street side.

The warming center has a lease for the space until the end of March. Gordon said the rent payment will be the same $850 a month that was paid for the previous location.

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. Gordon said volunteers worked there a total of 1,381 hours. He said every year people who are using the center include families in crisis with young children.

City public works employees helped volunteers move furniture out of the old location into storage and now into the new location.

Stanchfield said the new location is of similar size to the old, but is made up of much more open space compared to the multiple smaller rooms of the previous location.

She said they’ve tried to arrange furniture so the space can be used for multiple purposes.

“We’re trying to kind of section it off so you can have a card playing area, a sitting area and we’ve got a separate area for kids as well,” Stanchfield said.

She said city officials, the United Way and St. Mark’s officials have been great to work with.

“We all have a similar mission, to help those in need,” she said.

Stanchfield anticipates the new location, like the old, will inspire people who use it to in turn help others.

“We are hoping to just make it that safe, warm space where people feel comfortable,” Stanchfield said. “We really value the people in our community who need help. They come in, need a little help, then they turn around and help others. It is inspiring to be a part of that process. To help give people that opportunity to help others.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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