By Carol McCracken
This year’s Dia de los Muertos celebration might very well be the last such celebration on the Hill. That’s because it’s possible that this will be the last year that A Company of Girls (“ACOG”), who staged it last year for the first time, might be moving off the Hill in the not too distant future.
ACOG who has been happily purring along in its new home at the former Adams School was told by the city of Portland that it must vacate the property by the end of this month – that’s tomorrow. However, the award-winning program for at risk girls has just been informed that it may now have a short extension of time – until early November before it must move its program – somewhere. This extension of time will permit the non-profit to go ahead with its plans for Dia de los Muertos. As of today, Jane Mahela, board president of ACOG, said it has no place to move to – on or off the Hill.
“This is a wonderful celebration of our ancestors who’ve gone before us,” said Mahela of Dia de los Muertos, of the upcoming event. It’s a way to remember those who have passed through our lives. It’s not sad at all.” Preparation in the form of workshops start early in October and run through the month. Participants learn to make shrines and much more that are displayed during the l l/2 day event. The celebation starts on Friday evening, October 31 and goes over into Saturday, November 1. Weather permitting, there is a parade, food, music and so much more; it’s impossible to do it justice in this space. “If we leave the Hill, we go with a big bang,” Mahela said, joking, in a telephone conversation today.
Looking for new space for this after school program is not new to ACOG. Back in August of 06, People’s Regional Oppportunity Program who owned the historic buiding at 10 Mayo Street which had been home to ACOG for 11 years, announced the building was for sale for $350,00. After an unsuccessful attempt to buy the building from PROP, it was sold to Roxanne Quimby for $255.00. Quimby who is from Portlandd and elsewhere told MHN through a spokesperson back then that she wanted to be “sure the building doesn’t collapse. We’ll addres its use later.”
However, it appears to MHN that precious little restoration work has been done to save this former church that is over 100 years old. Workers on scaffolding outside the building say they’ve been hired by Quimby to waterproof the outside of the buildling, but the work appears to be progressing at a snail’s pace.
The wealthy Quimby was the object of an article in YANKEE magazine last year describing the controversies that have surrounded her purchase of property in northern Maine. Quimby so far has refused to contact MHN, despite its attempts to contact her through her workmen at 10 Mayo Street. They are unwilling to discuss the project. Quimby is the founder and former owner of ‘Burt’s Bees”, a successful lip balm company.
In a related move, last week the Community Development Committee voted unanimously not to reissue requests for proposal for the redevelopment of the former Adams School as some in the community had recommended. Avesta Housing was the only developer to respond to the city’s RFP. It presented its plan to redevelop the property into 40 condo units to be sold at “affordable” prices.” The Adams School is now the buiding from which ACOG runs its program.
In the meantime, Mahela says: “I just can’t believe that there isn’t someone out there who can’t find the space we need to keep this important program functioning on the Hill – where it is so badly needed. We’ve had a good relationship with the city. They’ve been very good to us.”