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Registration drive provides election information to residents

Avesta Housing recently partnered with League of Women Voters (LWV) of Maine to help Avesta residents register to vote in the upcoming midterm election. From mid-September to Oct. 18, volunteers from LWV canvassed door-to-door at Avesta properties throughout Maine, distributing nonpartisan election information and instructions on how to register.

The majority of residents welcomed the canvassers into their homes, said Avesta Resident Service Manager Nicholas Kjeldgaard. Many are recent immigrants eager to participate in the democratic process; if they are not U.S. citizens, they are given information on how to obtain citizenship.

According to Lado Ladoka, program director with LWV of Maine, the partnership with Avesta has been a great success. “Our research shows that people who are low-income are less likely to vote, but they are the most affected by policy,” he said. “Many things in their lives are important; if they can put voting as one of the most important things, they can help make our society much better.”

Avesta partner provides groceries to food-insecure residents

Inflation hits lower-income populations the hardest. When the price of groceries increases dramatically, people who are already struggling to buy basic necessities are in danger of going hungry. Avesta Housing has formed partnerships with numerous food banks to help ensure that residents who are food insecure receive the help they need. One of the oldest and largest of these partners is Wayside Food Programs.

An Avesta staff member collects food from Wayside Food Program’s warehouse to distribute to residents during a summer barbecue for Pearl Place and Unity at Bayside in Portland.

A nonprofit founded in the 1980s, Wayside salvages edible food that is not sellable for cosmetic reasons, packaging imperfections, and/or inventory levels from grocery stores, wholesalers, farms, and other food establishments. That food is then redirected to soup kitchens, food pantries, and other social service agencies across southern Maine.

Wayside distributes community meals at two Avesta family properties: Brick Hill in South Portland and 409 Cumberland in Portland. It also provides food to our senior properties and at events held by property management teams for residents.

Many of the volunteers who assist with the distribution live at Avesta properties or in the surrounding communities, which typically contain the same economic demographic.

“Avesta has been a great partner for us, because it’s such a perfect fit,” said Wayside Executive Director Mary Zwolinski.

Unlike some food pantries that have designated pick-up times at a permanent location, Wayside operates as a mobile food provider. The concept is simple but effective: Bring the food to the people who need it.

“Wayside thinks outside the box,” said Nicholas Kjeldgaard, resident service manager with Avesta Housing.

 

 

River Turn Woods celebrated with groundbreaking

CONWAY, NH — Avesta Housing celebrated its first affordable housing development in Mount Washington Valley on Sept. 23 with a groundbreaking ceremony featuring development, legislative, and financial partners.

When completed, River Turn Woods will provide 156 new homes to the Conway area. The first phase, consisting of 40 new homes, is expected to be completed by summer 2023. The development is located near the Technology Village Business Resource Center on Route 16 (White Mountain Highway).

“Avesta is honored to be part of this vibrant community that holds such a rich history, and we are proud to be able to bring much-needed affordable housing to the area,” said Avesta Housing President and CEO Rebecca Hatfield. “We recognize that New Hampshire and Maine are experiencing a dire and unprecedented affordable housing crisis, and we are committed to doing everything we can to address that challenge.”

Also speaking at the event were Patrick Hess, Avesta Housing director of real estate development; Chuck Henderson, special assistant for policy and projects for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen; Ben Belanger, senior assistant for policy and projects for Sen. Maggie Hassan; Rob Dapice, executive director and CEO of New Hampshire Housing; Andy Dean, chair of the Mount Washington Valley Housing Coalition; and Diane Donaldson, senior vice president with Bangor Savings Bank.

In addition to those listed above, Avesta thanks the following for their support and expertise in helping to make this development and groundbreaking event a reality: Attitash Ski Resort, WNC, Federal Loan Home Bank of Boston, the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority, the Town of Conway, Preti Flaherty, the Mt. Washington Valley Economic Council, State Sen. Jeb Bradley, Lassel Architects, Hutter Construction Corp., and HEB Engineers Inc.

Avesta Housing is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year as a leader in affordable housing development and services. Its portfolio includes 110 affordable housing properties with a total of 3,200 apartments housing nearly 5,000 residents. River Turn Woods is one of several Avesta developments under construction that will collectively provide more than 700 new affordable homes to Maine and New Hampshire.

Participants celebrate the development of River Turn Woods, a new Avesta Housing affordable housing development in Conway, N.H., with a ceremonial groundbreaking. (L-R): Jay Muth, vice president of community development, Bangor Savings Bank; Diane Donaldson, senior vice president of commercial lending, Bangor Savings Bank; Ben Belanger, senior assistant for policy and projects for Sen. Maggie Hassan; Chuck Henderson, special assistant for policy and projects for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen; Rob Dapice, executive director and CEO of New Hampshire Housing; Rebecca Hatfield, president and CEO of Avesta Housing; Andy Dean, chair of the Mount Washington Valley Housing Coalition; David Ciminelli, vice president of originations, WNC & Associates; Patrick Hess, director of real estate development, Avesta Housing; John Eastman, town manager, City of Conway; Lars Traffie, president, Hutter Construction; Sarah Hourihane, principal architect, Lassel Architects; and Michal Kaleta, project manager, Lassel Architects (Photo by Cheryl Senter/New Hampshire Housing)

Deering Place mural pays homage to residents and community

One of the unique aspects of Deering Place, Avesta Housing’s new affordable housing development in downtown Portland, is the use of art to decorate interior and exterior space. Several local artists provided work to bring Deering closer to the pulse of the community and make it a warm, welcoming home to residents.

Among the more striking pieces is a large-scale mural on the wall of the exterior parking garage. Greeting motorists as they pull into the space, the work consists of two parts: A sign that bids “welcome” in five languages and a larger sign that reads “Deering Place” with images inside the letters.

The mural is the work of Ryan Adams, who over the past decade has become one of the most in-demand artists for businesses and public spaces in Maine and elsewhere. Through his art, the Portland native tells the story of a location that is educational while aesthetically pleasing.

For the Deering Place mural, Ryan created a design that is a nod to traditional postcards with big block letters representing the advertised location. That meant not only references to Portland (Monument Square, a lobster) but references to residents’ home countries (African textile patterns, a desert scene, a woman wearing a hijab).

The intent was to capture the diversity of the resident population, which includes everyone from native Mainers to recent immigrants. Residents were invited to give their input as to what the design should incorporate, and were shown sketches to ensure the depictions were accurate.

Deering Place residents and staff will recognize a familiar face in the last letter, “E”: Maintenance technician Matt Lorello. Ryan was asked to paint something that depicted a traditional Mainer. He found his muse in Matt. “Once I met him, I thought, ‘Oh, he’s perfect!” Ryan said.

For Ryan, working at Deering Place was more than just a job. It was an honor.

“Having the chance to make something that hopefully represents the residents and their cultures or where they’re from was very special to me,” Ryan said. “It’s not a public piece; it’s just for the residents of this building. That’s a layer that I don’t often have.”

For more information about Ryan and his art, visit his website: ryanwritesonthings.com

 

Application period open for 2022 scholarships

Applications are being accepted for the annual Avesta Housing scholarship. The educational scholarship is open to Avesta Housing residents who are enrolling in a secondary education program — such as college, graduate school, trade school, or certificate programs — in the next 12 months.

The deadline for applications is May 9. Winners will be notified by May 20. We accept applications in all languages.

Avesta raises $2.4 million for Silver Hearth Fund to aid seniors

Avesta Housing is proud to announce that it has exceeded its $2 million goal for its first-ever fundraising campaign, the Silver Hearth Fund. This money will help improve the lives of older residents who lack the resources necessary for a stable household consisting of safe, quality housing and adequate necessities such as food, health care and psychological wellbeing.

Thanks to the generosity of partners and friends, Avesta raised $2.4 million during the three-year campaign, which was launched by leadership gifts from Gorham Savings Bank, Bangor Savings Bank, and Norway Savings Bank. Kennebunk Savings propelled the campaign over the top with a $550,000 donation.

“Our donors’ generous support of Avesta Housing has touched lives, improved lives, and saved lives. Creating and maintaining a safe, quality home is the vital first step in building a foundation for a healthy and happy community,” said Avesta Housing President & CEO Dana Totman.

Avesta pilot program provides housekeeping assistance to seniors

SCARBOROUGH, Maine — Jeffrey Phillips lives by himself in a studio apartment at Southgate, an Avesta Housing affordable housing community in Scarborough. He suffers from a lower-back injury suffered while working at a dairy farm that limits his mobility. Everyday housekeeping tasks are difficult—and when housekeeping is difficult, it often doesn’t get done. It wasn’t long before Phillips found himself overwhelmed.

Then he was connected to a local cleaning service contracted by Avesta Housing. A worker came to his apartment and spent seven hours cleaning and whittling down the accumulated trash. His apartment still needs work, but it’s much better than it was, and it didn’t cost Phillips anything.

“It was really bad until she came over,” said Phillips, 74. “She did a really remarkable job, and I am very grateful.”

The housekeeping support is the result of a pilot program established by Avesta last year to help residents ages 55 and older who are medically compromised and need help maintaining their homes. The program, which is only available to Avesta Housing residents, is funded by a microgrant from the Silver Hearth Fund, a three-year fundraising campaign created to provide services to older residents. There are currently nine households receiving assistance, and there are 15 more on the waiting list.

“They’re good residents, they just can’t physically maintain their homes because of medical reasons,” said Marguerite Walz, a resident service coordinator in Westbrook, who is overseeing the program. “With that population, there is a lot of hesitancy and resistance toward this kind of service, so we tried to identify residents who were willing to get help. And surprisingly, a lot of them were.”

To ensure residents get the appropriate level of help, Avesta has partnered with Organize ME!, a business specializing in decluttering homes. In addition, Avesta is collaborating with Eric Grainger, who headed the Hoarding Task Force in Maine, and students from the University of New England to help with cleaning.

Walz is hopeful that additional funding can be obtained so that the program can continue.

“There is a lot of need out there, so there is a lot of excitement about this,” she said.

PHOTO: Jeffrey Phillips in his apartment at Southgate in Scarborough, March 2022.

Lack of snow didn’t stop Westbrook from having their ‘Blizzard Bash’

WESTBROOK, Maine — Despite 60-degree weather and brown grass, Westbrook students were trying to soak up the rest of what’s technically still “winter”.

The Westbrook police department held its annual “Blizzard Bash” where there were games, crafts, pizza and more.

There were supposed to be activities like snowshoeing, but despite the lack of snow it was still a great day for the kids to get out and connect with their community.

Marguerite Waltz, the Resident Service Coordinator of Avesta Housing said, “We call it the blizzard bash but there’s no snow but it’s beautiful weather, we’re happy to be outside.”

Subsidized apartment buildings provide homes for Mainers in need

SOUTH PORTLAND — Maine is in the midst of a housing crisis, but some families in the greater Portland area now have a new place to call home.

Last year, there were four subsidized apartment buildings being built in Portland and South Portland.

Three of them are now open.

“It’s 16 degrees out today,” Shay Dufour, who was formerly homeless, said. “Can you imagine there are some people that can’t even be placed in hotels, that are outside in this right now?”

Dufour has waited a long time for a place to call home.

She now has that after moving into Thornton Heights Commons in South Portland.

“It’s nice to have my own space,” Dufour said. “For 3 years, I’ve been homeless living in hotels, random hotels.”

Avesta CEO Dana Totman sees Maine’s affordable housing need as greatest in 50 years

Dana Totman, who will soon retire as president and CEO of affordable housing developer Avesta Housing, on Wednesday said the need for such homes in Maine is at a historic level — and big changes in zoning, funding and attitudes are critical.

“The need for affordable housing is far greater than any time in Avesta’s 50-year history,” said Totman, who was the keynote at the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Eggs and Issues event. “The mismatch [in housing and incomes] we have today is far worse than what we had 50 years ago.”