Friday, September 12, 2008

Local Investment Banker Serves Global Housing Foundation

By Joe Hessert
Staff Columnist

Mark Zimmer spent years working on Wall Street before moving to South Berwick after the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. Now he works primarily from his home and in addition to his time spent following the market he is on the board of directors for Global Housing Foundation, a non-government organization which has recently started a joint effort with the UN to provide the opportunity for working poor in third world countries to finance and purchase their own homes.
“There are people working in these countries and all of their money is going to rent for houses that are worse than the ones they’d be living in if they were unemployed and provided housing,” said Mark. “The goal of the Global Housing Foundation is to set up an infrastructure and lending opportunities for these people so that they are encouraged and rewarded for working rather than punished.”
To do that, the Global Housing Foundation has worked with local and international banks to offer interest rates that match the rates of homebuyers in America – half of the interest rate that these people would otherwise be paying for homes. “The goal is to get these people the opportunity to stop spending their money on rent and to start investing it in a home that they can have for the rest of their life,” said Mark. “It will actually cost less for them to buy a home than it would for them to continue paying rent in the slums.”
Most of the work the Global Housing Foundation has done so far has been geared toward Central America, but they are in the process of setting up a European branch of the company and hope to start offering similar programs to working poor in Africa. Mark said that if this program is as successful as he expects, he’d love to look into helping Maine’s struggling workers in a similar way.
“To qualify for the Global Housing Foundation’s program, third world residents need to meet three criteria,” said Mark. “They have to be living in the slums, they have to be working, and the lease has to be in the woman of the house’s name. This is to ensure that if something happens with a marriage falling apart that the children will still have a place to live.”
“There are 1.3 million working poor in the world right now,” said Mark, “The UN set millennium goals in 2000 and by 2010 we hope to have resettled the majority of them in homes that they own and are paying off themselves.”
Asked how it feels to be a member of such an important and exciting global project, Mark said it was amazing. “It’s amazing that you can add value to people’s quality of life on such a broad scale,” he said. For more info on the Global Housing Foundation you can contact Mark by email at:
Caption: Mark Zimmer stands on the patio behind his South Berwick home. (Weekly Sentinel photo)

Conservation Easement Protects 400 Acres of Gerrish Island

Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT), a statewide land conservation organization, today announced the protection of an ecologically significant property on Gerrish Island in Kittery. MCHT was granted a conservation easement on the 400‑acre coastal property, which has been owned by the Delano family for more than 60 years.
The coastline of the protected property extends for approximately three‑quarters of a mile and includes rocky headlands and cobble beaches. Directly behind one of the cobble beaches is a large freshwater marsh providing habitat for migratory birds, including black ducks, green winged teal, and great blue herons.
The conserved land, while not open for public use, offers an exceptional scenic resource for the area.
“Our mother and father shared a deep appreciation for this special place,” said Sara Delano. “My brothers and I were pleased to work with Maine Coast Heritage Trust and its partners to honor our parents’ wish that this property always remain in an unspoiled state.”
“This is one of the largest properties with coastal shore frontage in southern Maine,” said Chris Fichtel, MCHT Project Manager. “With the constant pressure of development in York County, it is gratifying to be able to preserve such an important natural habitat.”
Maine Coast Heritage Trust purchased the conservation easement from the Delano family at a substantial discount from appraised value and received financial assistance from the Mt. Agamenticus to the Sea Conservation Initiative.
Helen Winebaum, campaign chair for the Mt. Agamenticus to the Sea Conservation Initiative, expressed her appreciation to the Delanos, saying, “This is an extraordinarily generous gift from the Delano family.”
Gerrish Island forms the southern tip of the State of Maine, bounded on the East and South by the Atlantic Ocean, on the West by Portsmouth Harbor and the Piscataqua River, on the North by Chauncey Creek, and on the Northeast by Cutts Island and the Seapoint Beach conservation area.
Caption: Gerrish Island at Sunset. (Courtesy photo)

Wells Meetinghouse Gets a Facelift

The Historic Wells Meetinghouse recently underwent two major capital improvement projects under the supervision of Dennis Hardy, Co-Chair of the Historical Society of Wells and Ogunquit and Project Manager.
Painters from B& H Painting of Biddeford owned by John McNeil have just finished the job of painting the exterior of the historic 1864 Meetinghouse across from the Hannaford Shopping Plaza on Route 1 in Wells. New wooden shutters, to be installed later this month, are being manufactured by Barry Chase (TheWebhannet Company) of Wells. The shutters (many are originals) had suffered from periodic removal and re-installation due to several paintings, and the effects of salt air and decay.
The Historical Society of Wells and Ogunquit is housed at the Meetinghouse and Vestry and is charged with maintaining the Meetinghouse. Efforts to raise $35,000 for Capital Improvements are underway and $22,000 has been raised so far.
As part of its fund-raising efforts, the Historical Society is planning the second Colors of Fall GALA Dinner & Dance to be held at the “Coastal House” on Saturday October 18, 2008, to the music of Straight Lace. Two couples (one from each of the two towns) are being honored as outstanding citizens: Gary and Diane Leech (Wells) and Peter and Barbara Woodbury (Ogunquit). Tickets, are available at $60 each at the Meetinghouse Museum.
The Meetinghouse is in its third incarnation. Built as the First Parish Meetinghouse in the mid 1600s, it was burned by the Indians, and eventually re-built. In 1864 it was constructed for a third time, in its present New England Civil-War style. In the early and mid-1900 it was the home of the First Congregational Church of Wells.
The Museum and the interior of the Meetinghouse are open to the public, free of charge, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 10 to 4:30PM. Visitors are always welcome. For more information or tickets to the Fall Gala call 646-4775.
Caption: Rick Samples and Ron Thomas of B & H Painting of Biddeford hard at work painting the Wells Meetinghouse. (Courtesy photo)