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Rotary Club’s January Thaw Raises $ To Help Homeless

Rotary Club President Elias Thomas with the donations of warm clothing collected at the January Thaw fundraiser.

The Rotary Club’s 2023 January Thaw event last month raised nearly $10,000 to help Sanford residents who are unhoused or at risk of losing their homes. A large crowd enjoyed food at and drinks Kai Asian Fusion and donated a small mountain of warm clothing items which the Sanford Police Department will distribute as needed.

Elias Thomas, President of the Sanford-Springvale Rotary Club, welcomed people to the fundraiser and said he was thrilled with the fantastic turnout. He thanked the many sponsors. He introduced Deputy Chief Eric Small of the Sanford Police Department, who gave a brief history of the Mental Health Unit and said the relationships the SPD has built with local nonprofit agencies including the York County Shelter Programs and York County Community Action has been vital to its success in helping individuals find and keep housing over the past four years. “We are blessed to have an amazing community,” he said.

The funds raised are managed by the Sanford Housing Authority and used by the SPD’s Mental Health Unit to help those who are unhoused or in transition. Officer Colleen Adams of the MHU gave the Sanford Springvale News a rundown of some of the ways last year’s funds were used:

  • Rented a storage unit for someone who was losing their home
  • Paid for a hotel room for a week for someone who was waiting for their unemployment check
  • Purchased four tanks of gas for people who were stranded
  • Purchased K1 for someone who was out of fuel
  • Got a birth certificate from out of state so someone could get a Maine ID
  • Purchased steel-toed boots for someone who needed them for work
  • Purchased a cell phone and calling plan so an unhoused person could stay in touch with resources
  • Purchased $500 in gift cards that police officers can hand out to people who need a meal, a hot drink or necessary items

She said that as of that date, there were 22 Sanford residents living outdoors or in vehicles. The number changes frequently as some people get assistance and other people lose their housing.

Diane Small, Executive Director of the Sanford Housing Authority, said her agency is currently renovating two properties which will become affordable housing. The SHA is also working to build more senior housing in town. Ms. Small said she has a long wait list of elderly people on fixed incomes who would like to move out of their houses and into subsidized apartments, which would free up more single-family homes for younger people to purchase.

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