Youth Action Board specialist Kris Pitts, right, and a youth who wanted to remain anonymous design a sandwich board with a message of hope at New Beginnings’ drop-in center on College Street in Lewiston. The boards, which covered first-floor windows of the building after it was burglarized this spring, are being used to spread messages of hope. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — It’s a new beginning, of sorts.

New Beginnings’ youth drop-in center on College Street has reopened after the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, during which it was broken into, its windows boarded up and spray-painted with graffiti.

“It was a sense of loss for some of them,” youth worker Rebecca Adamson said of the youths, ages 14 to 21, who are homeless or risk of being homeless. At the Anne Geiger Center at 134 College St. they had access to meals, clothes, supplies and opportunities for activities.

Suddenly, their safe place appeared more like the place some youths were trying to forget, Adamson said.

“The building seemed very intimidating,” said one teen who did not want to give her name.

Some of the window boards had been marked with graffiti, covered with words of hate.

In response, the Youth Action Board met remotely with their specialist, Kris Pitts, and came up with a plan: turn the negative into a positive.

They began covering the boards with their own messages: Love = Love, and Black Lives Matter.

When the center reopened June 1, the boards were removed and turned into sandwich boards to spread messages of hope.

“The Greater your Storm, the Brighter your Rainbow” one reads.

“Stronger Together” reads another above an image of a diverse group meant to represent those who come to the center.

The sandwich boards are being placed in front of the center.

Others in the community are taking notice. A dozen supportive agencies, such as Safe Voices and Tabboo Hair Design, are using some of the window boards to create messages of hope to post in front of their buildings.

The building shutdown, theft and vandalism was now connecting people in the community and providing some hope.

“It was a loss for them that became a community-building strategy,” Pitts said, “because people are still feeling so isolated.”

Although the center is open with coronavirus-related restrictions of temperature checks, masks and only 10 people at a time for 30 minutes, youth have been slow to return, outreach worker Sam Bourgeois said. He’s worried about them.

So, he has been delivering bags of food to between 50 and 75 locations every Monday and Wednesday.

“Many of those stops have more than one youth staying at that location,” he said.

Each Friday, Bourgeois delivers a banana box of food, hoping the extra amount helps through the weekend.

“For a lot of our youth, this has been their resource,” Adamson said of the center, so the closing and theft of supplies had a serious impact.

First-floor windows in the New Beginnings’ drop-in center on College Street in Lewiston are boarded up after a burglary and theft this spring. After the center reopened this month, the window boards were turned into sandwich boards with messages of hope that are now on display in front of the building. New Beginnings photo

Taken were food and hygiene products, but game consoles and televisions were left in place and offices undamaged.

“It’s survival for them,” Adamson said. “You can’t be too mad about it.”

The words “Stronger Together” will be painted on a sandwich board above an image of a diverse group that aims to represent youth who come to the New Beginnings drop-in center on College Street in Lewiston. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo


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