Gatherings 4 Main St. opens as Dexter community center
DEXTER — A space for residents to gather during the middle of the week, and enjoy a healthy lunch starting the middle of next month, is being provided in the former Fossa’s building by the Dexter Seventh Day Adventist Church.
“Any age is welcome here, any faith,” said Dexter Seventh Day Adventist Church Assistant Minister Dawn Tritch about Gatherings 4 Main St. as she sat in an armchair placed in front of one of the many windows looking out onto the intersection of Main and Spring streets in the heart of downtown Dexter.
“We want it to be a space where people can really just hang out and we’ll try to make the hanging out as pleasant as possible,” she said.
Tritch and her husband Todd, an ER doctor and chief of medical staff at Penobscot Valley Hospital in their hometown of Lincoln, had purchased a building just down Main Street for the church and to be a community space. She said renovations to bring the structure up to code were around $1 million.
“That was just sort of basic repairs, that didn’t include a commercial kitchen,” Tritch said. She said the building at 8 and 12 Main Street is structurally sound but is need of roof repair and “the interior really needs to be finished, gutted and redone so it just was really out of our budget to make into a community center as much as we’d like to.”
The location is currently being used for storage and may become retail space and apartments in the future.
“About the time we decided not to do that Frank (Spizuco) put this building up for sale, it had been for lease for only,” she said about the now 4 Main Street home of Gatherings 4 Main St. “So we got this building end of May and it had a complete renovation job done, I’ve been told to the tune of $750,000 about six years ago.”
“Our small group, there was 11 of us originally that came in together at the beginning of February after some twists and turns, said we needed a place we could meet — we’re a small church group,” Tritch said. “I said I would only be interested in supporting a project like this if it were for the whole community, I didn’t want something that’s just open a couple of hours a week, I think that’s a waste of real estate.”
She spoke with Dexter business leaders and town councilors about what is in the community already and what they would like to see. “Everyone said there is no place for people to hang out when it’s really hot or really cold, especially older people and mothers with young children who feel housebound,” Tritch said. “Well we thought we could provide a community center and we heard that Meals on Wheels had lost their kitchen where they function.”
Not everyone is eligible for Meals on Wheels so once the Gatherings 4 Main St. kitchen is up and running — an oven hood vent is still on order — anyone will be able to come in and enjoy a midday meal via donation from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in addition to the Meals of Wheels offering. “We wanted to offer some sort of small luncheon, one item type of meal such as soup and a bread roll in the winter or a salad bar or sandwiches,” Tritch said.
“As a group we tend to be more vegetarian-oriented, there are not a lot of vegetarian/vegan eating options in Dexter or around this area so we thought if we offer an alternate lunch aside the Meals on Wheels program that was vegetarian or vegan it would offer something and it wouldn’t be in competition with the local restaurants because we are to help businesses and people in Dexter, not drive them out. When we get up and running about mid-September the luncheon will be by donation so maybe that will be a little more appealing to some people who want to try vegetarian food.
“We want to promote community, we’re not here to make money. We hope we get enough donations to make enough money for the next meal.”
She said Meals of Wheels will be served Tuesdays and Thursdays so “we thought we would be open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays from 10 to 5 and we would try to offer meals on all three of those days as well.”
“We figured if we were open those middle days it would give an alternate place in the middle of the week when things can drag for people who are stuck at home,” Tritch said.
Throughout the three days there will be coffee and free Wi-Fi. “We have a little tiny gift shop in the armoire,” Tritch said about another feature of Gatherings 4 Main St. “It’s a place for people to come and play games, we are collecting board games and puzzles and I am a big trivia fan so I want to start a regular trivia half hour for people to come and do. We are going to build a little children’s corner over there,” she said about a corner space.
“We’d like to partner with some local organizations who would like to hold a make your own pizza night as a fundraiser, we’d like to be supportive of that,” Tritch said, saying upstairs will be a large group space.
“We are just wanting to offer different things in the community,” she said. Tritch explained Gatherings 4 Main St. is part of the Dexter Seventh Day Adventist Church so uses of the space need to fit within the church mission “which is helping people in this crazy world, there are so many things that work against communities and families so anything we can do to be supporting to the Dexter community we want to do that.” She said she and church members will not be proselytizing but would be happy to discuss spirituality with those coming through the doors if they wish.
“We are open for Saturdays and that’s a little different because Saturday is our Sabbath day,” she said about Dexter Seventh Day Adventist Church services. “1 o’clock we offer a children’s Bible story hour, it’s just like a story hour would be at the library except we use Bible stories”
“At 3 o’clock we have our Bible study, worship,” which Tritch said is an interactive time to discuss Biblical passages.
“At 5 o’clock we do supper and that’s open to the public as well as we do what call ‘haystacks’ and haystacks it’s a potluck kind of thing, like a layered taco salad to finish up day and have fun time together,” she said.
As Gatherings 4 Main St. gets up and running, Tritch said she hopes to offer small recovery groups. She said she has a friend who specializes in substance abuse treatment and would like this be offered one afternoon a week.
“I’m a clinical therapist also but I specialize more in trauma and working with victims of domestic violence and trauma and some of those other types of issues,” Tritch said.
She said the hope for Gatherings 4 Main St. is to mentor others to keep the center open and have it become self sustaining. “That’s our goal, to have it really be beneficial to the community it has to become the community’s,” Tritch said.