ELLSWORTH — A six-family apartment building that will offer transitional housing, childcare and classes on cooking and parenting to families experiencing homelessness was recently awarded two substantial grants.
Families First Community Center received $175,000 from the Sunshine Lady Foundation, founded by Doris Buffett, and $50,000 from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation.
The organization has been relying heavily on volunteer labor, said Terri Ouellette, board president. The grants will change that.
“This money will allow us to hire more skilled craftsmen and move ahead more quickly, which is critical at this time,” said Ouellette in a press release. “Our goal is to open this May. For this to happen we will need the help of both volunteers and professional contractors. This will not be easy, but it is possible and now we can move ahead full steam ahead.”
In addition to the apartments and childcare center (with care for infants up through age 6), Families First will have communal living rooms, a communal kitchen and a dining room where residents will be expected to eat meals together on a regular basis.
The organization’s operating expenses are expected to be roughly $250,000 annually, Ouellette said in a previous interview. Those expenses will be partially offset by housing vouchers.
The budget for the renovation project is $805,000, said Ouellette. Much of the work to date has been done by volunteers, including architects and contractors who donated time and materials. The space is a little more than halfway to completion.
“We are so honored and grateful for these amazing gifts,” said Ouellette, “and the timing could not have been more perfect.”