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This week’s edition!

Helping others without judgement

By Nathan Tsukroff

LEWISTON – Helping local groups to support the needy and homeless doesn’t involve judging those who ask for help.

That’s a lesson that John Morrison of Lewiston said he learned years ago from Suzanne Grover, who was a founder of Grover Gundrilling, Inc., The Oxford Casino, and The Boxberry School.

Grover helped gather food supplies for the Oxford Food Pantry, and provided help and donations to the Oxford County Fair, 4-H Youth Development, the University of Maine system, and Friends of the Blaine House.

Morrison was working on one of Grover’s buildings and saw her unloading food from her vehicle into another building near her house. He asked what she was doing, and Grover explained that she used the building as her warehouse for collecting items for the local food pantry.

“Like most people, I said, how do you feel when a young strapping man . . . takes advantage of the situation?” Morrison said he asked Grover. “And her reply to me was, ‘If I worry about that, if I have to pick and choose who I help, I’m not going to help anybody.’”

Grover explained that we don’t know the situation people are in, or what circumstances are impacting their lives. Morrison said she told him there are some people who take advantage, but she “was not going to waste time worrying about that, I’m worried about people.”

“And that really flipped a switch in my brain, and I said, ‘You’re right, you’ve gotta help people,’” Morrison said.

Jamie Caouette of The Store Next Door Project at Lewiston High School is helped by John Morrison of Lewiston as they collect donations on a street corner in downtown Lewiston. The project assists homeless students in the Lewiston/Auburn area. (Photo courtesy of The Store Next Door Project)

Morrison recently spent part of a weekend standing on a street corner in downtown Lewiston with a donation bucket to collect money for The Store Next Door Project at Lewiston High School. That project supports homeless students in Lewiston and Auburn, assisted by grant monies from Lewiston schools and donations. Families in need are also helped through clothes closets and food pantries.

And at his store in Auburn, Cure Cannabis Co., a medical cannabis dispensary, Morrison is raffling off a Louis Vuitton bag filled with $1,000 of product in the hopes of raising $5,000 by the end of the month to donate to The
Store Next Door Project. He plans to sell 50 raffle tickets at $100 each.

He said he is starting a conversation with his sister about finding a building to be used for housing for homeless students. Morrison’s sister, Diane Jackson, worked for U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe for 17 years, and now works with U.S. Senator Susan Collins.

Morrison said he and his sister may look at grant money to help with the purchase of an apartment building. He said that Jamie Caouette, the director of The Store Next Door Project, told him, “Somebody has to step up” and get a building. He said he understands that while the City of Lewiston may be considering a plan to use the Longley School building for housing, “we’ve gotta start somewhere. I’d just as soon start small and work our way up.”

Another community concern for Morrison is the situation that impacts many apartment building owners in Lewiston and Auburn when the federal government builds subsidized housing in the area. Renters are inclined to look at the newly constructed buildings, leaving older buildings with vacancies.

Morrison said he believes the state and federal governments should look at ways to help local building owners, especially since the buildings have often been in the hands of local families for generations, or are owned by younger people who maintain the buildings as retirement investments.

He said the building owners “are investing in the community, but they need a level playing field where they have access to easily accessible financing, not financing where you have to jump through a million hoops.”

Programs and money are available, Morrison said, but it is hard to find those programs and financing. He hopes to find a way to provide information about the programs and financing to the building owners.

John Morrison of Lewiston, owner of Cure Cannabis Co., a medical cannabis extract dispensary in Auburn, helps collect donations for The Store Next Door Project at Lewiston High School. The project provides assistance for local homeless students. Morrison helps with various projects in the Lewiston/Auburn area to provide help for needy residents. (Photo courtesy of The Store Next Door Project).

Morrison helps the Age-Friendly Senior Community Center at Pettengill Park with donations toward their weekly dinners. He will be donating additional funds for this year’s Thanksgiving Dinner.

The St. Louise Bells restoration project in Auburn was also helped by Morrison. He donated money that was matched by the City of Auburn to help place the bells in a tower in Auburn Anniversary Park.

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