Root Cellar gets help

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LEWISTON – Work on a Birch Street youth center will continue after local churches stepped forward with $50,000 in donations.

Crews are continuing to build Lewiston’s Root Cellar, putting in plumbing and electrical systems in the 89 Birch St. building.

“We are totally dependent on fundraising and donations of time and services,” said Dale Carlson, executive director of the Portland-based Root Cellar organization. “So, we’ve been fortunate in that area.”

An anonymous local couple agreed to donate $50,000 if Carlson could come up with another $50,000 in cash donations by March 24. Carlson said they just made that deadline, raising $50,237.

“The mortgage was due the very next day, so we made that payment and were able to sock a little money away for the construction,” he said.

Carlson announced plans for the Lewiston center one year ago. The Root Cellar bought the old cement block building at 89 Birch St. and began looking for volunteers and donations.

Overall, the renovation needs about $700,000 in cash and in-kind donations. In-kind help has been plentiful. Local contractors have agreed to help frame the building’s interior, install the Sheetrock and new windows and pour a concrete floor. The Maine Oil Heat Cares program is donating the heating system.

Most of the cash donations have been small, of the $10 and $20 variety.

“We did get one large donation that pushed us over the top, of $28,000,” he said. “But mostly, they were small, people doing what they could. And there were a lot of them.”

The original Root Cellar began on Portland’s Munjoy Hill in 1984, offering teen and after-school programs. Since then, it has grown to include food distribution, English as a second language classes, community dentistry and counseling.

This is the first time the center has expanded since it started. The new building is near the corner of Birch and Bartlett streets and within walking distance of Lewiston High and Longley Elementary schools.

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