LEWISTON — Chris Pope knows that life tests can come at any moment.

Twice in the early part of the week, rocks have been hurled through the windows of The Root Cellar, the downtown mission of which Pope is the director.

It happened first on Monday night when a rock the size of a softball was thrown through the rear doors at the 89 Birch St. nonprofit.

After traveling through two panes of thick glass, the rocks landed 20 to 30 feet inside the dining area at the rear of the building.

“There had to have been some oomph behind them. As I was cleaning up the glass, I was hoping the people would return so I could have a discussion with them; figure out what was troubling them and causing them to do this,” Pope said Thursday after looking over the damage.

Then on Tuesday, it happened again, only at the front of the building.

Police are investigating the vandalism and working closely with The Root Cellar to improve building security. Pope said they are looking at four people of interest in the case.

“I’m not mad about this,” he said. “We’re having to focus more of our assets on this, so it’s steering us away from what we’re supposed to do: serve, love, feed and clothe our neighbors. We’re trying to help and change the community one life at a time.”

The Root Cellar has been on Birch Street since the fall of 2009, attempting to meet the spiritual and physical needs of inner-city youth and their families. They offer free clothing, meals and a place for young teens to do homework or just get off the streets.

Pope plans for their programs to go on as usual, and the damage will be fixed this week.

“I don’t think there is anyone mad at us. I think that for whatever reason, we’re being tested. It’s how we react that matters.”

Staff photographer Amber Waterman contributed to this report.

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