LEWISTON — In a new beginning for New Beginnings, the agency held a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony Friday for the new youth drop-in center already under construction on College Street.

The building that now houses programs for homeless and at-risk youth has a lot of history. It once was the Jewish Community Center and, later, The Toy Library.

New Beginnings purchased the building in 2011, having outgrown its former 1,200-square foot space on Lisbon Street, and it has taken three years to get to the point of full renovation. The building was chosen, with input from the youth New Beginnings serves, for its accessibility.

At Friday’s ceremony, New Beginnings Development Director Rachel Spencer-Reed announced the organization has already raised $1 million of the $1.2 million needed to finish the project. That includes a $500,000 grant recently awarded by The Next Generation Foundation.

According to Spencer-Reed, the original plan was to raise money and renovate the building over several years, but with the help of the grant the agency was able to renovate the whole building immediately.

“Everyone has so many different memories of this building and those all go into what (the building) is becoming,” Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce President Chip Morrison said.

New Beginnings has been serving Maine’s homeless youth for 30 years. In 2013, 653 young people and families were served, and the new youth center will allow the agency to expand and continue its mission.

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