LEEDS – Rural Community Action Ministry will hold an open house to celebrate its 35th anniversary from 3 to 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 25, at the office, 81 Church Hill Road. The ministry serves the towns of Buckfield, Canton, Greene, Hartford, Leeds, Litchfield, Livermore, Monmouth, Sabattus, Sumner, Turner, Wales and Wayne.

Anyone wanting more information or directions can call 524-5095 or 224-7505.

The ministry traces its root to a need for safe and affordable housing in rural communities. On Feb. 21, 1970, the ministry received certification as a corporation.

Led by Carl Geores of Monmouth, then minister at the Leeds Community Church, a coalition of local churches, government agencies and the Tri-County Mental Health Center, established a counseling program, serving rural communities.

A housing program was established in March of 1970. Since then, the ministry has expanded to include other essential services aimed at preventing homelessness, hunger and the consequences of rural isolation.

The Homelessness Prevention Services Program, along with the Faith In Action Program for the elderly, monitors housing conditions, assisting with fuel and making referrals to the housing program. The program also connects youth, elderly and homebound neighbors with resources to access health services, medication, transportation, clothing and household items, food and legal assistance. The ministry maintains the only family emergency shelter in rural Maine.

The gardening program assists in garden start-up, providing seeds, rototilling and education about nutrition, food safety and raising and preserving produce. Participants are encouraged to join the Plant A Row for the Hungry project, which supplies produce to food pantries. The ministry supports 13 area food banks.

Volunteers work with families to meet their needs without compromising self-worth and dignity. Each summer, work groups from around the country come to help with the housing program, staying in local churches and assisting in building and repairing houses.

Other volunteers work in the office, drive clients to medical appointments, do yard work or participate in the annual holiday program. Students from local colleges and high schools volunteer.

Local churches and towns, grants from private foundations and the United Way also contribute.

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