WESTBROOK — The Transformation Project is embarking on gofundme.com effort to raise $75,000 to help renovate 907 Main St. into a prison ministry center dedicated to helping young adults leaving lockup successfully transition back into society.
“Over the years of going into correctional facilities, I’ve discovered these dark communities are like gold mines,” said Ken Hawley, the president and founder of The Transformation Project. “They’re full of potential, value and worth. Hidden within so many offenders I’ve seen leaders, artists, culinary geniuses, craftsmen, teachers, entrepreneurs and much more.”
Once up and running, the Westbrook center will provide programming, mentoring, and life skills and work training. Individuals will also receive substance abuse education and career development counseling to learn how to become trusted employees and valued members of our communities.
If that funding can be raised, Hawley said, a number of construction professionals have agreed to gift $75,000 in labor to the renovation efforts.
“If we can raise that $75,000 and activate the construction with those professionals, we are hoping to be open by the end of the year,” he said.
The $75,000 – $5,000 of which had been raised as of June 4 – will pay for the construction of living space for eight individuals along with offices upstairs and a meeting/venue space downstairs. Hawley said he would like to have those spaces up and running by the end of the year.
The funding will not, however, pay to renovate space downstairs into a cafe. The Transformation Project, which purchased the building in November 2016 for $500,000, initially planned to build a cafe and run it, but because it would require $250,000 for that to happen, Hawley said, the plan changed.
“(The Transformation Project) has chosen to lease the space out to an existing cafe business that desires to collaborate with our employment model and vision to train, mentor, employ and equip young people re-enter our communities from corrections successfully,” Hawley said.
Hawley has talking to the owners of Coffee ME Up about taking over the 1,400-square-foot space and hopes to have an agreement in place by the end of the month.
Coffee ME Up, located at 221 Cumberland St. in Portland, was started last year by Mateo Hodo and Alba Zakja, a husband-and-wife team originally from Albania.
Hodo said “when Ken approached me, I was intrigued by his end goal and wanted to do what I could to help him fulfill that.”
He said the two are negotiating just how that would work.
“We love what The Transformation Project is trying to do and I personally want to get involved and do what I can,” Hodo said.
In an effort to help The Transformation Project meet its fundraising goal, First Evangelical Free Church, 355 Bridgton Road in Westbrook, will be hosting a Cook-Off Competition, beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, June 22.
Events at the benefit will include live music, raffles, a charity auction and food prepared by local restaurants and churches. Tickets are $15 per person or $50 for family of four. Tickets can be purchased at buytickets.at/thetransformationproject/171060.
Area restaurants and churches interested in participating may register by emailing Emily Bruce at email@example.com.
More information is available on its website thetransformationproject.org. To help will the fundraising, visit gofundme.com/thetransformationproject.
Michael Kelley can be reached at 781-3661 x 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mkelleynews.
A fundraising campaign is underway through GoFundMe to raise $75,000 to help renovate 907 Main Street, formerly Ethos Marketing, into the prison ministry center that will help youth leaving lockup gain the skills they need to re-enter society. (Courtesy photo)