Formed in 2021, Friends of Downtown Sanford is a grassroots resident-driven movement to revitalize Sanford’s downtown. On Thursday, January 26th the group celebrated months of hard work and announced Sanford’s official designation as Heart & Soul of Sanford.
According to its website, “Community Heart & Soul is a resident-driven process that engages the entire population of a town in identifying what they love most about their community, what future they want for it, and how to achieve it.” There are 15 Community Heart & Soul cities & towns in Maine including Biddeford, Gardiner, and Rockland, all with thriving downtowns.
Mary Hastings, Small Business Advocate at the Sanford Regional Economic Growth Council, explained the importance of being a Community Heart & Soul town: “Friends of Downtown Sanford just received a $10K grant from the Orton Foundation to facilitate smaller group meetings and identify what is most important to our citizens. This process will allow us to find commonality, celebrate our diversity, and forge a path to a future that is inclusive of all.”
Laura Bell, a downtown Sanford small business owner, shared her excitement: “We see that energy, and feel that sense of community from our customers and other small businesses. I think that becoming a Heart & Soul community is crucial to take the next step in bringing that community spirit and pride into something tangible.”
Ms. Bell added, “We all have something that we love about our community, we all have a vision of what that future might look like, and this program gives a path for that vision to become reality. Put that together with the $30M RAISE Grant in downtown, and all of the sudden, Sanford is the place to be! Not only does it impact us directly, but it helps other small businesses downtown and will ultimately bring growth to Sanford in a really positive way. It is exciting to see all of the effort being put into these programs and the future it holds!”
Following a cake cutting, Friends of Downtown kicked off the four-step process with Phase 1: Imagine. The group formed teams that will focus on building awareness and interest in the community. These teams will go into the community for Phase 2: Connect and gather input from residents about what matters most to them.
Friends of Downtown Sanford has a very active presence on Facebook. Visit their page here: https://www.facebook.com/Friendsofdowntownsanford.
For more about Community Heart & Soul, visit this page: https://www.communityheartandsoul.org/community-heart-soul-towns/.