Let us tell you about our town!
Tucked into Casco Bay in the Gulf of Maine, Portland is Maine’s biggest port city and home to over half a million people - more than one-third of Maine’s total population. As Maine’s economic center, Portland is also known as a social hub and a melting pot of many cultures.
Historically, Portland has always been a settling ground for refugees. In the 19th century most immigrants came from Canada and while Portland offered hope for jobs and a better life, there were difficulties as well. In 1994 US News & World Report stated that the Portland, Munjoy Hill area was the second largest white slum in the United States.
In the midst of all this The Root Cellar was established in 1984, by a group of local Christians in the Munjoy Hill community. From our beginnings on a renovated dirt floor basement at 101 North St, The Root Cellar in Portland has united people from all walks of life in the work of building community. Together we are learning the powerful lessons of loving our neighbors at the nitty gritty level that changes all of our lives together, and follows our Lord’s example.
As hundreds of committed volunteers and community partners have worked together through the years, The Root Cellar has grown - with programs that include health and dental clinics, a cooperative healthy food program, household and clothing disbursement, job procurement, and job training as well as daily programs that mentor children and teens.
In our current building at 94 Washington Ave, we are still passionate about our initial vision of loving our neighbors! After 35 years we have become a community landmark deeply involved in the lives of families and neighbors. Yet, we have more work than ever.
Welcoming New Neighbors
Over the past 10 years growing numbers of families, attempting to flee violence and persecution in many countries around the world, have come to Portland, Maine. In 2018 The Portland Press Herald reported that asylum seekers are traveling to Portland, Maine in unprecedented numbers.
The Munjoy Hill neighborhood is a reflection of this great diversity of immigrants.
There are 60 languages spoken by students at Portland schools
Portland’s family shelter has been filled to its capacity of 151 people. An additional 75 or more people, including young children, have been sleeping on thin mats placed on the floor at two overflow locations.
Maine school system reports that 30% of school children are registered as below poverty level
As our population grows and becomes more diverse, The Root Cellar continues to do what we have always done - build community. We stand as a gateway to mutually beneficial relationships, as a reflection of the Kingdom of God where all are welcome. The Root Cellar is here to work together with neighborhood partners and volunteers from all over the State of Maine and the U.S. to continue to respond to the needs with dignity and hope.