Friday, July 3, 2009

Historic Former Factory Will Provide Affordable Homes for the Elderly

In its glory vanguard days, the Olde Woolen Mill building used steam power to manufacture woolen blankets for the Union Army during the Civil War. The mill closed in 1955 and, with the exception of it being used as a set location during the filming of Jumanji in 1995, the building has mostly been vacant until recently when The Caleb Foundation bought the property to redevelop into affordable housing for the elderly. This innovative reuse of a historic property is the first preservation project funded by Maine's State Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program signed into law last year.
In September, residents will be moving into 40 newly created apartments in the rehabilitated Olde Woolen Mill, a centerpiece of the community overlooking the Great Works River, the town green and town hall. Once the largest employer in town, it is now the largest complex of affordable housing for elders with 33 one-bedroom and seven two-bedroom apartments. And whereas the building was at one time powered by one of the earliest steam engines in the country, it is now powered, in part, by green technology, including solar panels that will provide enough non-polluting energy to heat hot water. The property has a patio in the back that overlooks the river, offers a walking path along the river to local residents for fishing and recreation and is easy walking to town services and local shops.
The complex, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, also boasts a community center where the steam engine will be on display. There will be an exhibit on the historical role of the property in the Civil War and in the community open to the public periodically. In 1995, the landmark Greek Revival style building was used as the Parrish Shoes Factory for the filming of Jumanji.
The Olde Woolen Mill is an important reminder of the very beginnings of the Industrial Revolution. Manufacturing operations were powered by one of the first steam engines in the country, housed in the basement, along with a floor to ceiling flywheel that powered the looms. The river water was diverted into the base of the building via a dam and fed a boiler, which turned the water into steam energy. The steam engine and the Bell Tower remain intact and are part of the preservation and reuse of a neglected, but historically valuable, property. The town, for example, will continue to be able to ring the Bell Tower to celebrate 4th of July, as has been community tradition.
The Woolen Mill was built in 1832 by John Lang and in 1850, William “Friend” Hill, a Quaker, became Lang’s partner and principal owner. In 1861, the original wooden building was burned to the ground, but was quickly rebuilt with locally made bricks and the company was commissioned to weave blue woolen blankets for the Union Army. Friend Hill found himself in a precarious position, since, like his fellow Quakers, he was committed both to peace, but also the equality of mankind. Quakers were among the earliest abolitionists.
“We are thankful for the support of the North Berwick community and we are grateful to Maine State Housing Authority, TD Banknorth, Key Bank and Northern New England Housing Investment Fund for funding the acquisition, construction and operations of this project. We believe this innovative reuse of such a historic property will be an asset to the community and lives up to the vision that legislators had in mind when they passed the Maine State Historic Tax legislation last year,” says Debra Nutter, Executive Director of The Caleb Group and The Caleb Foundation.
The Caleb Foundation operates 2,000+ units of affordable housing at 22 facilities in four New England states, including residences in Bangor, Lewiston, Portland, Old Orchard Beach and Saco, Maine. The Caleb Foundation, a non-profit organization, has created and maintained homes for low-income residents since 1992. Its affiliate, The Caleb Group, was created to connect families, elderly and disabled residents with services in order to achieve and maintain self-sufficiency.
As part of the resources provided to residents of the Olde Woolen Mill, a Caleb service coordinator will be on staff and on site at the complex. Anyone who is age 55 or older with a yearly income of $27,000 to $39,000 depending on the number of people in the apartment is eligible. For more information about apartment availability or to submit an application, contact Nancy Huffman at (781) 595-4665 or visit

Photo caption: he newly renovated Olde Woolen Mill building in North Berwick. (Courtesy Photo)

Exemplary WOCSD Volunteer of
the Year Announced

The Wells Ogunquit Community School District held the Annual Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast. This event is held near the end of the school year to thank the District’s many volunteers for their multitude of hours of service assisting students and staff throughout the school year. The event is arranged by Maryanne Foley, Community Resource Coordinator.
At the breakfast it was announced that Carolyn Beecher was selected to be recognized as the District’s Exemplary Volunteer for the 2008-09 school year. Beecher has been volunteering at Wells Elementary School for the past nine years in Kindergarten and Grade 2. School children look forward to seeing her and listening to the classic children’s story that she has selected to read to them.
Mrs. Beecher, known to the students as “Nana,” also helps with the judging process for the District’s Literary Achievement Awards Contest and the Literary Achievement Awards Ceremony. She even helps out with the set-up and clean up for the Volunteer Breakfast.
Mrs. Beecher’s name will be added to the Exemplary Volunteer Plaque that hangs in a hallway at Wells Elementary School.
School volunteers vary in age and do many different things in the District’s schools. Volunteers come from the community or, according to Foley, many volunteers are school students in the District. Foley said that some volunteers turn out to be members of the School Committee.
Donations for the breakfast were obtained from Hannaford in Wells, Congdon’s Doughnuts Family Restaurant and Dunkin’ Donuts in Wells.

Photo caption: From left – At left is WOCSD Community Resource Coordinator Maryanne Foley. Next to her is the 2009 Exemplary Volunteer of the Year, Carolyn “Nana” Beecher. They are standing outside of Wells Elementary School. (Reg Bennett photo).

Groups Applaud Commitment to Help Close Medicare Part D Coverage Gap

Several Maine health groups applauded the agreement reached last weekend by the White House, Senate Finance Committee and the nation’s pharmaceutical research companies to help seniors pay for their prescription medicines during the Medicare Part D coverage gap, also known as the “doughnut hole.”
“This is a huge step toward national health care reform,” said Susan Rowan, Executive Director of the Maine Cancer Foundation. “The commitment to close the coverage gap for affected Part D beneficiaries will be an enormous help to thousands of seniors in Maine who have prescription drug coverage thru Medicare and fall into the coverage gap.”
“This is a truly meaningful step in the right direction toward relieving health care costs,” said Jim Phipps, Executive Director of the Iris Network, which serves thousands of older people in Maine who are visually impaired or blind. “Thousands of Maine Medicare Part D beneficiaries are going to see real savings on their prescription costs thanks to this voluntary agreement.”
Although the Medicare prescription benefit program has been a tremendous success for the vast majority of seniors, the coverage gap has posed a challenge to some. Specifically, pharmaceutical companies will provide a 50 percent discount to most beneficiaries on brand-name medicines covered by a patient’s Part D plan when purchased in the coverage gap.
Additionally, under the agreement the entire negotiated price of the Part D covered medicine purchased in the coverage gap would count toward the beneficiary’s out-of-pocket costs, thus lowering their total out-of-pocket spending. Importantly, the proposal would not require any additional paperwork on the part of the beneficiary nor would an asset test be used for eligibility.
Currently, Medicare beneficiaries fall into the coverage gap after spending $2,700 on prescription medicines, of which Medicare pays 75 percent. With the exception of Part D beneficiaries who qualify for the low-income subsidy, there is no drug coverage after $2,700 until a patient reaches $6,100 in prescription costs, after which Medicare pays 100 percent of a patient’s drug costs.