BRUNSWICK — If the school and judicial systems can’t do enough for at-risk teenagers, where else can they get help?
Thomas B. Wright hopes the answer will be a new center at Brunswick Landing, where he plans to base the mentoring organization, Seeds of Independence, along with other agencies aimed at helping teens get their feet back on the ground.
Wright purchased two buildings at Pegasus Street and Burbank Avenue for $510,000 from the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority on May 1. He plans to move Seeds of Independence, which is now based in Freeport, into the larger facility by June 1.
Wright, the executive director of Seeds of Independence, was previously one of the founding partners of Portland-based Wright-Ryan Construction.
“What we’re trying to do with this building is have representatives from all the different social service agencies or people we collaborate with,” Wright said. “To have a space in here so that we can communicate with each other about ‘what’s the best way to help this kid?'”
Seeds of Independence has been working with high school students, and sometimes middle school students, in the Brunswick, Bath, Topsham and Freeport areas since it formed in 2008.
The organization, which has two staff members and about 50 volunteers, is funded by personal donations, Maine community-based foundations and a few businesses.
Seeds of Independence formed when two mentoring programs – Jump Start, meant for first-time offending teens, and Rebound, for teens already in the judicial system – were at risk of losing funding.
Wright said the formation of Seeds of Independence was meant to serve as an umbrella organization for the two programs.
“The problem’s worse and worse,” said Wright, who began as a mentor in the program. “The disparity between the haves and have-nots is growing. Poverty is the common denominator with the kids that we work with and it becomes more and more difficult to get out of that spot.”
In the current situation, Wright said at-risk teens are sometimes discouraged by the lack of a central location where they can utilize different agencies and organizations to help them get back on track.
With the Brunswick Landing facilities, Wright envisions the center as a place for teens to get easy access to different services and agencies, including parole officers, mentor organizations, social workers and legal advisers, and also a way for those organizations to better communicate with each other.
Wright plans to use Building 24, a 10,000-square foot former U.S. Navy personnel center, as the main hub for offices, while 1,600-square-foot Building 24, a former Navy clinic, will be used by food service provider and to give some of the teens work opportunities.
Agencies and organizations will also be able to rent Building 24 office space on a daily or monthly basis, he said, and the revenue would then help pay for the building’s annual operating costs.
“However I can make it work, so it’s affordable for them and we can get their services to the kids,” Wright said.
Wright said he has had discussions with 15 organizations that might want to consider moving into the Burbank Avenue facility. He hopes to have in by the end of the summer.
“The real issue is ‘do we want kids in our community not doing any thing?’ It’s just a waste of human life,” Wright said. “(The answer is) ‘no, we don’t.’ Morally, we just can’t abide by it, so this building is our effort to do something about it.”