SACO — Members of the Saco-area Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will soon break ground on a 3,600-square-foot expansion to their building at 15 Smith Lane in Saco.

The Saco congregation, also known as a ward, was established in 1996. The existing Saco chapel was constructed in 2005 and includes some 200 active church members, drawn from Saco, Biddeford, Old Orchard Beach, Buxton, Dayton, Arundel, Hollis and Kennebunkport. The chapel is located just east of Main Street/U.S. Route 1 in Saco.

After the expansion and other improvements are completed, the congregation will gather each Sunday in an enhanced chapel for worship services, and will enjoy additional expanded classroom spaces for instructional meetings. The addition of a cultural/activity hall will improve opportunities for family activities, sports and other social gatherings.

“We’re very excited about this expansion,” said William Guerrette of Saco, Bishop of the Saco Ward. “We’ve been waiting for it a long time. It means that we will be able to provide our members with a richer spiritual experience and better facilities for activities and community events.”

Church and community leaders will attend a brief groundbreaking celebration on March 23 at 4:30 p.m. Displays illustrating genealogy and family history efforts, youth and adult programs, and other church activities will be presented. Refreshments will be served.

“One of the things the new building means is our church continues to grow, just as the entire southern Maine area is seeing significant growth,” said Jeff Thomas of Falmouth, president of the Augusta Maine Stake. Thomas added, “We live in a time when we need places to worship, places where we can be instructed and learn how to love those around us, strengthening individuals and families and improving our communities. It is exciting to see continued growth in the stake.”

The Saco Ward is the southern-most congregation in the Augusta Stake, a geographical unit similar to a diocese, comprising 11 wards and serving approximately 4,000 people. The Augusta Stake encompasses southern Maine from New Hampshire on the west to Augusta and Damariscotta on the north and east.

The new building has been paid for entirely by church tithing funds. When finished, it will accommodate more than 200 people in the chapel and another 200 to 250 people in the cultural hall area. The building also will house a number of rooms that can be used for children and youth classes, along with the Relief Society, the women’s auxiliary of the church.

Construction on the new building will begin in early April, with completion anticipated in early fall. During construction, the building will continue to host ongoing worship activities, offering Sacrament Services each Sunday at 10 a.m. with Sunday School and other meetings beginning at 11:10 a.m. to noon.

“It’s exciting to see the impact the church has had on families and the surrounding community,” said Kathy Smith of Old Orchard Beach. “The feelings of joy, stability, and inner peace that it brings into the lives of the members, neighbors and all who enter benefits so many. Churches bring a sense of community, gathering and caring. Those who enter leave with feelings of gratitude and a desire to serve and then touch the lives of others. Lives are strengthened, communities bloom.”

“We welcome visitors at any time,” Guerrette said. “We take a lot of pride in our buildings. We want people, even those who are not of our faith, to see the building as a positive addition to the community.

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