LEWISTON — People came out in waves Friday to show support for Lewiston during Love Lewiston Day, with different displays and events inspired to bring the community together.

Julia Sleeper-Whiting, founder and director of Tree Street Youth, knew she wanted to help support young people and their families, so she developed the idea for Love Lewiston Day from conversations with them and others in the organization.

Love Lewiston Day is an effort to harness the energy among those in the community who want to do something but do not know what to do, she said. Several residents, organizations, businesses and people from outside the city showed up to participate in Tree Street Youth’s events or volunteer their time.

“Any way to energize, to take a moment — people just take a moment to process the trauma,” Sleeper-Whiting said. “… We wanted a way that people could feel like they’re doing something bigger.”

Mohamed Hassan, a Tree Street Youth mentor, holds up a sign Friday advertising his listening ears during the Love Lewiston Day. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

The city joined a host of other cities across the nation that have been sites of mass violence and Sleeper-Whiting thinks Lewiston cannot forget about the shooting. “This is now with us, this is now a part of our story and with all of us.”

Tree Street Youth began the effort by making ribbons for telephone poles available to people as a way to remember last week’s shootings. The ribbons, intended only for display in Lewiston, will stay up for 18 days, honoring the 18 people who died.


A station was set up where people could write cards to the victims’ families, first-responders and others who were directly impacted by the shootings. There was also a listening station where people could speak to a trained listener. Tree Street Youth collaborated with the SHAREcenter at 1830 Lisbon St. for supplies.

Lewiston teen Caliyah Duncan, 17, is a Next STEP student who made cards at the event. One card was for her aunt, who is a registered nurse working at Central Maine Medical Center the night of the shooting, she said.

The environment at Tree Street Youth during the event was warm and inviting, she said. Duncan joined the event because she wanted to feel more connected to her community. The three-day shelter-in-place order imposed while police searched for the shooter reminded her of quarantining during the pandemic, which she said was awful.

Cheryl Tarbox, center, signs her name to a large Love Lewiston Day sign Friday in the parking lot of Tree Street Youth in Lewiston, as Kusow Aden, right, waits to sign his name. Tree Street Youth encouraged everyone participating in the day of action to sign the sign, make cards, take part in active listening training and tie ribbons around every telephone pole in the city to honor the victims of the Oct. 25 mass shooting. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

She also made a card for families of those impacted by the shooting, letting them know they are loved and supported, she said.

Bates English major Caroline McCarthy and Bates arts student Audrey Esteves also made cards and tied ribbons around town. They felt compelled to show support for the community.

“We want to do our part,” McCarthy said. “We want to show the community we care.”


Both grew up in school knowing that a mass shooting was possible, and the thought remained in the back of their heads from a young age. People do not realize how impactful it is until they have been affected by one, Esteves said.

McCarthy is disheartened to think that the shooting is the only thing some people will know about Lewiston, she said. But the most important thing is for the community to remember its identity and to hold onto that, she said.

A group of adults with the Nature Conservancy of Maine attended the event, writing cards and hanging ribbons. The group works closely with Tree Street Youth and members wanted to show their support, though none of them live in Lewiston.

Maine is such a small state that communities are not far from each other and often they are impacted together, said Jeremy Cluchey, director of public affairs for Nature Conservancy of Maine. It is cathartic to be able to show support for Lewiston, he noted.

Nature Conservancy of Maine Program Director Tamara Lee Pinard graduated from Bates and lived in Lewiston for three years. To her, the city has always been emblematic of the state’s hard-working spirit, she said. “These efforts are where everyone’s hearts need to be.”

In addition to the events organized by Tree Street Youth, leaders encouraged other people to organize their own events or participate in the day in their own way.


Alison McConnell, community growing coordinator for St. Mary’s Health System, felt like the best way to participate in Love Lewiston Day was through food. “Food is our thing,” she said. “… If you are human and you need food we will help you.”

Jeff Newell, right, serves lunch to a guest Friday at the St. Mary’s Nutrition Center in Lewiston as part of a free public meal on Love Lewiston Day. Next to him, ready to serve, are AJ Saulnier, center, and Lily Krietzberg. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Her organization helped organize a community lunch at the Nutrition Center on Bates Street. It was open to anyone in the community who wanted to come in for free food and access a space where they could talk and be with other people. She wanted people to have a place where they could share food and feelings with each other.

St. Mary’s Food Pantry supporter and Bates environmental studies major Deven Thapaliya tried to make more meaningful connections and conversations at the food pantry and community lunch Friday, he said.

Thapaliya thinks gathering over food has more benefits than just getting fed, he said. “Food nourishes the body and community nourishes the soul.”

Sleeper-Whiting hoped the event acts as a catalyst that leads to other events in the community, she said.

Lewiston Mayor Carl Sheline thought Tree Street Youth’s event was so inspiring that he publicly proclaimed Nov. 3 as Love Lewiston Day. It is meant to be a day to collectively love others and unite for healing, according to a news release Friday.

“Uniting together and extending love to our neighbors is very important as we move forward,” Sheline said. “We are a resilient community, and we do have the ability to unite and heal, as well as share acts of remembrance within our city and beyond.”

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