LEWISTON — The Center for Wisdom’s Women hosted its first of several events to raise remaining funds needed to renovate the former Saint Patrick’s Convent. The project, named Sophia’s House, will create a residential recovery community for women who have struggled with incarceration, drug addiction and trafficking or sexual exploitation, often rooted in childhood trauma.

The building, donated to the center by St. Mary’s Health System, has been vacant for 16 years. The total cost of renovations and repairs will exceed $1.6 million. Two-thirds of that amount has already been raised through a combination of historic tax credits, sponsorships and grants, including a Community Development Block Grant from the city. Private gifts will make up the remainder. More than $199,750 has been raised toward that goal including donations from the event and a significant lead gift from the Sisters of Charity.

The leaders of this effort, which included the Center for Wisdom’s Women staff and board, a five-member campaign cabinet and a 12-member Honorary Campaign Council, met with potential donors at the Nutrition Center, adjacent to the former convent at 143 Blake St. Campaign Co-Chairs Audrey Chapman and Mike Carey told those assembled that “This project makes our community a statewide leader in addressing some of Maine’s most pressing economic, social and health challenges.”

“Our goal is to begin renovations in January and have 11 women living there by the end of 2019,” said Klara Tammany, executive director. “Not only are we renovating an historic structure in the middle of Lewiston, but women will again be living in a building that originally provided community living for women.”

Sophia’s House will serve survivors with an innovative trauma-informed and gender-specific program modeled on Thistle Farms in Nashville, Tennessee. Of those who enter that program, 84 percent complete it and, of those, two-thirds remain sober and financially stable long-term. 

Maine’s opioid epidemic and rising rates of trafficking and incarceration make this project critical. “Sophia’s House will help individuals break cycles of trauma using a model that’s been proven to work. This project will empower women to be their best selves,” said Kristen Cloutier, Lewiston’s City Council president and member of the Sophia’s House Steering Committee.

Additional informational events to promote the project, including tours of the convent building, are being scheduled through the summer with the next event planned for Wednesday, June 6. For more information contact Klara Tammany at 207-513-3922 or visit wisdomswomen.org.

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