FARMINGTON — The annual service remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will be held at noon Monday, Jan. 20, at Henderson Memorial Baptist Church at Main and Academy streets.

As a minister and civil rights leader, Martin sought justice for people of all races and economic classes.  The service this year will focus on rural homelessness, according to the Rev. Susan Crane, pastor at Henderson.

A video message from Betty Palmer, director of the Mid Maine Homeless Shelter in Waterville and who helped a local group develop a homeless shelter here, will be shared by Pastor Stephen Bracy.

Bracy will update the community on progress made so far by Western Maine Homeless Outreach to provide Franklin County’s first homeless shelter at Living Waters Church at 547 Wilton Road.

The shelter opened on Nov. 11, 2013, to serve women and children, and now homeless families from Western Maine until they can sustain themselves.

While many in Franklin County have believed homelessness was only an urban problem, people began showing up on the streets of Farmington last summer with signs saying they were homeless, according to a news release from Crane.

The recession has taken a toll on people’s ability to earn enough income to afford housing, utilities, heat, food and transportation, she wrote. A group of concerned citizens and social service agency staff came together to explore options for addressing the growing problem of homelessness in our community, her statement said.

Palmer was invited to a meeting and assured the group they could do something about the problem by finding a local church willing to hose a temporary shelter. Living Waters Assembly of God Church offered to help.

By having a temporary shelter in place, Franklin County would have a way to take a census of homeless people and have the numbers recorded by the state.  In time, the numbers may make it possible to develop a permanent facility, Crane wrote.

The Farmington Area Ecumenical Ministry, or FAEM, sponsors the annual service, which is open to the public.

The service is led by area clergy and includes the songs “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “We Shall Overcome.”

Soloist Judith Tracy will sing the spiritual, “O Freedom,” accompanied by Dan Woodward.

An offering will be taken to benefit future projects at Western Maine Homeless Outreach, including a new shower and a sprinkler system in the shelter rooms. The addition of the sprinkler system will allow the shelter to expand from 16 to 26 beds. Contributions are also welcome at WMHO, 547 Wilton Road, Farmington, ME 04938.

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