'Farm of Hope' Veterans Homeless Shelter to Break Ground July 15

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CARIBOU -- The United Veterans of Maine organization has announced the ground breaking ceremony for the Dahlgren/Skidgel Farm of Hope, a homeless shelter and job training program located at the former Phil’s Florist in Caribou. The event will take place on Saturday, July 15th on the site at 358 Washburn Road. Congressman Bruce Poliquin will be the keynote speaker at the event. The groundbreaking will begin the construction of 4 duplex cottages that will serve as transitional housing for homeless Veterans in Aroostook County. Recent donations, including building materials have helped to keep the project on target. According to UVM President, John Deveau, most all materials needed for the project have been donated.

“We will be recognizing our many donors of material during the ground breaking ceremony”, said Deveau who has directed the project from its inception. “Thanks to these donations and our volunteers who will be constructing the cottages our cost will be manageable. We could not have done this without this generous support and it means a lot to our Veterans who are working on the project and will mean even more to those who come to live at the farm and rebuild their lives.”

A donation of $10,000 from Farm Credit East based in Presque Isle helped UVM purchase the property. The organization had initially been leasing the property with an option to purchase but the gift from Farm Credit helped make the purchase possible.

“Only a portion of the lease payment was going towards the purchase”, said Deveau. “Thanks to the gift from Farm Credit and other donations including the WAGM telethon we now have the mortgage on the Farm and we have already added substantial equity to the property”.

The $10,000 donation was presented during the grand opening of the Administrative building in April. Representatives of Farm Credit East and their partner organization commented about the gift.

“We were excited to hear about what the United Veterans of Maine were doing to get veterans off the street and onto the farm and were immediately interested in helping out,” said Peter Hallowell, branch manager at Farm Credit East’s Presque Isle office. “The Farm of Hope embodies our company mission to support agriculture, veterans and education.”

“CoBank is proud to partner with Farm Credit East and the United Veterans of Maine to support the Farm of Hope,” said Will Baildon, regional vice president, CoBank. “The farm will provide support, training and, most importantly, a place to call home for those who have proudly served their country in the armed forces.”

On April 15th the grand opening ceremony was held for the administrative building. The building has been completely remodeled and is now set up with communications systems including teleconferencing. Volunteers have also been building planter boxes that will be used in the greenhouse attached to the building. Plans are to begin planting vegetables over the next several weeks.

“Volunteers have made it all possible”, said Deveau. “We already have more than $25,000 in volunteer time into the project. We anticipate doubling that amount with the construction of the cottages and completing landscaping work. We want the farm to be a showcase of what can be done when people work together.”

Karen St. Peter, who served in the U.S. Army and who chairs the UVM fund raising committee said she has been very impressed with the way local businesses have stepped up in support of the project.

“So many businesses have come forward to help us”, said St. Peter who has personally donated hundreds of volunteer hours. “We are now doing a calendar fund raising event and dozens of businesses have contributed so that we have prizes to award every day during the month of August”. Tickets are $10 each or 3 for $25 and are available at the Farm of Hope 358 Washburn Road or at the UVM booth Thursday nights on Sweden.

St. Peter also said that donations of bedding, and furniture have also been made and a local church group is making quilts for each of the cottages. During the grand opening of the administrative building a ladies with the Gray Memorial United Methodist Church in Caribou donated 16 prayer shawls for the homeless shelter.

The ground breaking ceremony will begin at 10:30 with a presentation of colors by the Loring Job Corps Color Guard and other ceremonial events. Members of the Dahlgren and Skidgel Families are being invited to the event. Dahlgren and Skidgel are both Congressional Medal of Honor recipients. Dahlgren for action in France during WWII and Skidgel who received the medal posthumously for heroic service in Vietnam. Both men have ties to Caribou.

Donations to the Veterans Homeless Center may be made by visiting the website, unitedveteransofmaine.org or by contacting Karen St. Peter at the Farm of Hope at 492-2190.