VASSALBORO — Since last October’s wind storm damaged the roof of the Olde Mill Place in Vassalboro, residents have been rallying to restore what has become the town’s unofficial community center. This weekend, the Save the Mill fundraising campaign continued as dozens of Mainers gathered at the building to sell homemade goods and baked treats.

The craft fair took place on Saturday and will open again on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Ray Breton, who owns the mill, said that repairs to the roof will cost between $300,000 and $400,000. So far, the community has raised about $32,000 in total.

“For a small community, that’s a lot of money,” Breton said.

Samantha Lessard, whom Breton called the unofficial mill manager, said she hoped this weekend’s activities will raise an additional $3,000.

While most vendors in attendance were veterans of seasonal fairs, Saturday marked the first time Diana Rendall, of Unity, set up a table to sell her crafts. Rendall has knitted hats and made tote bags, lanterns and other decorative items using plastic canvas and yarn for nearly 20 years.

As customers came and went, she took mental notes.

“I’ve got to find the right stuff to make,” Rendall reflected.

Her friend, Pauline Day, sat at the table next to Rendall, selling mesh ribbon wreaths and plastic canvas designs of her own. Although she lives in Albion, Day said that paying a tabling fee to support the mill was a cause she could easily get behind.

“I think it’s beautiful and we ought to keep it going and use it more often,” she said.

Karen Hartin, selling light-up snowmen a stone’s throw away, spoke to the importance of the building for the Vassalboro community.

“Anything that needs to happen happens here,” she said. “It’s nice to have a go-to place, because we’re kind of off the beaten path. It brings people into the community.”

Hartin represented the Maine Savings Federal Credit Union on Saturday. The bank used the event as a double fundraiser — while it contributed to the mill repair fund in order to set up a table, proceeds from its craft sales will go to the Vassalboro Food Station Pantry.

Luci Levesque, of Augusta’s Dragonsong Creations, said she was impressed with the space Breton opened up for the town and the support he has received to help cover costs for roofing.

“People I know who live in Vassalboro say this is a real opportunity to create a gathering place,” she noted. “I think there’s a lot to be said for that. It’s community pride, people coming together to work for a common goal.”

The property hosts several town events, including Vassalboro Days festivities in September, haunted houses and mazes around Halloween, and a Christmas tree lighting that brings around 300 people annually. A number of groups and individuals rent or use the space for various purposes throughout the year as well.

When Breton bought the multi-building mill in 2010, he did not insure it because the cost was too high. As the community continues to collect funds for Breton, he is waiting to hear whether or not he has been approved for a loan to fully finance repairs to the building.

“If you don’t have a roof, you lose everything,” he said.

Five tarps are stretched over the mill’s top as a stop-gap solution, but cold air and water still leaks through. The main structure’s ground floor and parts of its top floor are currently usable, but Breton estimated at least 16,500 square feet of space to be lost until permanent repairs can be made.

“If the roof got fixed, it could be so much more,” Lessard said. “So much can’t be used now.”

Lessard noted that the craft fair has received so much positive feedback that she decided to coordinate another one at the mill on Dec. 15. She is known for her creativity with fundraising ideas. Breton noted that Lessard contributes a handful of ideas for every one that another person comes up with.

“I’m an observer,” she said. “People have different needs, wishes and wants that I hear. I have a daughter who rollerblades around. People say, ‘I wanna do that!’ So I say, ‘Oh, that’s an idea.'”

To that point, Lessard is putting on two rollerskating events in the winter, where people can bring roller skates — helmets required — and use them on the main floor of the mill. The first of these events will take place one on Jan. 13.

In the meantime, Breton is happy that his building is able to support local businesses and artists this weekend.

“You never know what’s out there,” he said. “You don’t realize how much talent there is in town until you make space for it.”

Meg Robbins — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @megrobbins

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