MACHIAS, Maine — A large, rambling building on Cooper Street, once a home for mentally challenged adults and children, is planned as the future home of a shelter for women who have been abused and their children.
Five area churches, from Lubec to Jonesboro, are pooling their skills and resources for the project, with Lifespring Chapel Christian Church taking the lead role.
Pastor Doug Watermolen said opening the shelter has been a passion and a dream of his for decades.
“I first came to Washington County in May of 1997, and I immediately felt there was a great need,” he said Sunday. “When I retired from the naval base at Cutler, I began to fulfill that dream.”
He said his family has no background in domestic violence but just felt compassion and the desire to help.
One year ago, an anonymous donor heard of Watermolen’s vision and donated a large building, formerly Marshall Manor, on Cooper Street.
The coalition hopes to create eight apartments, common spaces, classrooms and a chapel within five years. It is named Shekinah House, “Shekinah” meaning a place of God.
“It’s not just a shelter,” said Wayne Graves, a member of the Shekinah House board of directors. “It will be a full recovery center, with short- or long-term stays. We will offer education, medical care, skills training and counseling.
“It will be a place to first rest, and then prepare to go back out in the world,” he said.
A project this large — with an estimated $2 million price tag — cannot be done by a single church, Graves said. It is estimated that renovations will cost $500,000 and the remaining $1.5 million would cover services and maintenance expenses.
“With the economy going south on us, donations to nonprofits have really dropped,” Watermolen said.
That has prompted Shekinah House to get creative. Every Saturday, in 10 rooms of the building, Lifespring holds a yard sale to help defray heating expenses and taxes.
But it will be the fundraising work of others that will complete the project, Watermolen said.
He said that last year a group of students from the University of Maine at Presque Isle stayed for a week and helped with renovations.
“They want to come again,” he said. “There has also been interest by a group of retired RV folks who go around the country doing this type of thing. Job Corps may assist us with the carpentry.”
The first year of the project was spent on demolition inside the building, creating a board of directors and writing bylaws.
“Now we begin raising funds and seeking volunteers,” Watermolen said. “We can house and feed anyone if they hold a fundraiser, and that money will pay for supplies.”
To set up fundraisers or volunteer, contact Watermolen at 733-2923 or mail contributions to Shekinah House, P.O. Box 144, Machias 04654.