AUBURN — Brian Enos had spent many days and nights wandering the Lewiston streets looking for a place to rest. He was cold and his stomach rumbled, but it was a matter of dirty laundry that brought home the seriousness of his situation.

“It’s a real psychological kick in the head,” the Lewiston man said, “when you actually look homeless.”

Enos was one of three panelists to speak Wednesday night about desperate times and salvation at the New Beginnings annual dinner, where hundreds gathered to celebrate another year of helping neglected and homeless youth. The event was held at the Martindale Country Club in Auburn.

Enos’ plight began two decades ago when he wandered away from a single-parent home and found himself on the streets of Lewiston, often without food, shelter or any of the day-to-day comforts most teenagers take for granted.

“You don’t know where your next meal is coming from,” Enos said. “You don’t have clean clothes. I was kind of lost in the weeds.”

Ultimately, he wandered into the New Beginnings Outreach center on Lisbon Street, where suddenly, there were people who cared for him. He was able to connect with other youths and to eat his personal favorite meal: bologna and ketchup sandwiches on white bread, warmed in the microwave.

“Just getting that sandwich every day was a Godsend to me,” Enos said. “I could kind of pull my bootstraps up and do things for myself. It was a great psychological boost.”

Sitting next to Enos, 21-year-old Jesse Shaw had a similar story to tell. It began six years ago with an abusive home and ultimately led to her being cast out onto the streets where trouble awaited.

“I was an extremely angry child,” Shaw told the audience. “I was really crazy.”

Like other youths in similar situations, her future seemed to hang on her next move. Fortunately for Shaw, she said, her next move was to reach out to the people of New Beginnings.

Not that it was easy.

“I was terrified,” Shaw said.

The staff and volunteers at New Beginnings talked to her, she said. Other youths assured her that everything was going to be OK.

“New Beginnings was a safe place I could go,” she said. “You could freak out. You could come to terms with your problems. That was really important to me because I was the kind of person who would put it all under the rug.”

Sam Chamberlain, meanwhile, told a tale that didn’t start out with the familiar refrain. His family wasn’t broken at first. His parents were professionals, an attorney and an engineer.

“A very normal life, I guess,” said Chamberlain, now 22.

But things went sour. There were challenges within his family and soon Chamberlain was on his own. He was directionless and headed for trouble. Then he, too, found New Beginnings and the downward spiral ended.

“New Beginnings,” Chamberlain said, “definitely changed the trajectory of my life … It’s that space where you can walk in and know that there’s someone there who cares for you. Not just someone — but everyone.”

The stories of woe and recovery followed a night of boisterous celebrations at Martindale Country Club for the staff and volunteers of New Beginnings. For 35 years now, they’ve been providing a safe haven for an estimated 700 youths a year.

As part of the celebrations, awards were handed out to several individuals, including Lewiston attorney David Dubord, who received the annual service award for more than three decades of volunteer service.

“We can’t say enough thank-yous,” said Bob Rowe, retired director of New Beginnings.

Chamberlain, Shaw and Enos seemed likewise compelled to offer their thanks to the people of New Beginnings.

“You guys changed my life,” said Chamberlain, who went on to attend the University of Maine in Orono and co-founded a group to battle online bullying.

“Please believe that what you do makes a huge difference,” said Enos, now married and living in Lewiston. “New Beginnings allows you to be who you are. New Beginnings allows you to explore who you want to be.”

“I’m happily married today,” Shaw said. “I’m comfortable with my past. I wake up every day, happy.”

[email protected]

New Beginnings by the numbers

12,331: Nights of housing where youths were safe and off the streets;

10,955: Meals served at the shelter and outreach drop-in center;

727: Youths and families served this year;

521: Teens and young adults helped at the drop-in center.

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.