Grantee Update: Heart of Biddeford
Heart of Biddeford was founded in 2005 when the National Trust for Historic Preservation identified Biddeford as one of ten certified “Main Street” communities in Maine. Initially, this mostly-volunteer organization hoped to improve the quality of life in Biddeford through a modest slate of programs. Heart of Biddeford (HOB) worked with the City of Biddeford to improve safety in public parks, create volunteer opportunities that would transfer into paid work for low income residents, and to promote downtown Biddeford through community events. The Sam L. Cohen Foundation made grants of $10,000 in 2015 and 2017 to support HOB’s operations, and during that relatively brief time HOB has fostered new community partnerships and drawn significant new funding to benefit Biddeford residents.
HOB’s success is due in part to their small but high-energy team that brings together representatives from diverse demographics in Biddeford. This year, HOB had a very successful, first-time effort with UNE to have a student orientation event in downtown Biddeford and welcomed 700 new students to Main Street on their first night on campus. HOB is involved with Biddeford Schools and the Biddeford Rising effort to connect New Mainer students to resources and providers. HOB’s newest AmeriCorps Vista started this fall, and the students have particularly loved connecting with her, as she is Haitian-American and is just seeing snow for the first time. Along with efforts to connect with Biddeford youth, the group “Age-friendly Biddeford” has now joined Heart of Biddeford as an advisory group. HOB is in regular communication with service providers in Biddeford, many of whom are Sam L. Cohen Foundation grantees (Seeds of Hope, Engine, Biddeford Food Pantry, and others). As Biddeford becomes increasingly appealing to higher-income residents, HOB is working with a wide-range of community groups to ensure that HOB continues to be relevant and to address inequalities and mitigate gentrification.
HOB’s recent success includes generating significant grant dollars for Biddeford. This year alone, HOB spearheaded a collaborative grant application for $50,000 from the Sewall Foundation to improve Clifford Park, the 140-acre park adjacent to the downtown, and HOB won a $150,000 grant to preserve the Biddeford City Hall clocktower from an American Express contest. The winning campaign told Biddeford's story of diversity and included the video, It's Our Time. In early November, HOB put Biddeford in the running for a $500,000 prize from Deluxe Business Solutions and the Hulu TV show, "The Small Business Revolution." Out of 12,000 applicants across the country, Biddeford made it to the top 20 and will learn in December if the town is named in the top 10. The winning town becomes the focus of the Hulu TV show, and Deluxe Business Solutions will invest $500,000 in six of Biddeford’s small businesses (including Reilly’s Bakery).
On December 7, HOB’s annual downtown holiday celebration includes Congregation Etz Chaim in the Menorah and Tree Lighting festivities.
2018 Sam L. Cohen Pioneer Scholars
The Pioneer Scholar Program, a partnership between supporters and the Mitchell Institute, provides the opportunity to recognize specific Mitchell Scholars and Alumni who, through their contributions to school and community and their demonstration of certain qualities – as students and as citizens – stand out for acknowledgement.
Habso Omane - Portland High School * Smith College
Syeda Washima Fairoz - Biddeford High School * Mount Holyoke College
Luke Gosselin - Thornton Academy * University of Maine
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