The board, Alyson Stone said, had been thinking about the end for a while.

Lewiston’s official 10-year designation as a U.S. Department of Agriculture Enterprise Community ended in December, as did new federal funds. Still, Empower Lewiston, created out of $2 million targeted at lifting up the downtown, had grappled with whether to continue its mission beyond this year.

Stone announced Wednesday that the program was closing its doors at the end of 2009. Her position as executive director will end sometime between September and December.

“We’re not wanting to continue in a way that’s just being another nonprofit competing against other nonprofits,” she said. “We’re at an unusual but perfectly fine ending point.”

Empower Lewiston has about $300,000 to spend as it winds down.

Part of its original mission: to address poverty and promote economic activity in U.S. Census tracts 201 and 204. Over 10 years, the group has put money toward the Marsden Hartley Cultural Center, the Kennedy Park skate park, Lots to Gardens and the B Street Community Center, where it has maintained an office.

“I just find it incredible what this community has done in that period of time with that designation,” Stone said.

She’s seen a changing face of downtown and changing aspirations, she said. “It’s a very different (place) than it was 10 years ago.”

Enough other nonprofits are doing projects similar to Empower’s goals that it’s no longer needed, she said.

There is a bill before the U.S. House that would extend some benefits to Enterprise communities. If it passes, Stone said, money or tax credits would be handled by an entity such as the local growth council or the city. Those sorts of details remain to be sorted out.

In the meantime, Empower Lewiston will put out the call soon for more proposals to fund with its last bit of money. Proposals that enhance the downtown and have merit will be considered, Stone said. The cap per idea is generally $25,000.

Recipients from an open grant call this winter included St. Mary’s Nutrition Center of Maine, teaching healthy cooking and snack classes; and the Family, Friends and Neighbors Network, a service helping connect child care providers with needs in the local Somali community. Both efforts received $10,000.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.