History

Unity Barn Raisers (UBR) is a unique community organization that has proven highly successful on many levels. Thirteen years of grass roots organizing and creative thinking has resulted in many notable accomplishments (ranging from a revitalized downtown to re-energized farms to new programs for underserved residents). But perhaps UBR's greatest accomplishment is that it has transformed the way local people think about their community. We now realize that we can (and must) shape our community's future. Through UBR, hundreds of us have become actively engaged in doing exactly that. UBR now boasts 400 members, and relies on them for ideas, labor, and funds.

UBR was formed in January 1996, in response to some of the great needs and opportunities facing this community. At the time, western Waldo County--where Unity is located--was the poorest region of Maine (with a lower per-capita income than even Washington County). Unity's small downtown which is the region's traditional market center was clearly dying.

From the beginning, UBR took an innovative approach to community development. The major initial focus was to help revitalize Unity's small downtown. UBR tackled this challenge with several creative projects. These included: transforming a vacant downtown building into a vibrant new community center; renovating several other downtown properties for new commercial and residential purposes; recruiting appropriate new businesses to downtown Unity (including a new insurance agency, credit union, health center, veterinarian office, and an expanded grocery store); planting trees, adding benches, and building sidewalks and walkways to enhance downtown livability; creating walking trails; and creating an active farmers market in a downtown setting.

Since that time, UBR has pursued a broad array of other projects, including far-reaching efforts aimed at increasing farm vitality and preserving the significant wetland habitat that exists in our region. More recently, UBR has also focused attention weatherization projects for businesses and residences, maintaining a downtown "pocket park," partnering with Unity College on an annual Day of Service, and organizing public meals and other community-building events.
Here is a list of some of UBR's achievements over the years:

Community Center
32 School Street
UBR bought and renovated an old masonic hall into a Community Center.
Unity Gym When a fitness center was losing its rental space, UBR provided space for what became the Unity Gym
Brier's BeachUBR purchased the property from a campground going out of business and held for use as public lake access, later sold it to Trillium Development along with the old grammar school.
Old Grammar SchoolUBR accepted the property as a donation from the Town of Unity and held until an acceptable use could be found. Maine Farmland Trust acquired the property and is renovating it for use as a Food Hub.
38 School StreetUBR bought the property for possible use as a children's library. Later acquired by Maine Farmland Trust for use as offices.
100 Main StreetUBR bought this historic building in the center of town, renovated it, rented it and later sold it to AAA Cellular.
205 Depot StreetUBBR bought the property and renovated it as a vet's office in an attempt to attract a vet to town. It was later sold.
28 School StreetUBR purchased the land, leased it and later sold it to Freedom Insurance Company.
64 Main StreetUBR purchased the property, attached a trail easement for access to the Bikeway Trail, kept some land for central parking, and later resold it.
Foot Bridge across Sandy Stream connecting Main Street to Unity CollegeUBR used a grant from DOT to build the bridge. Unity College partnered with UBR for maintenance. UBR purchased an easement for access from Main Street.
Trail SystemUBR developed a series of trails including Connor Mill Trail, Bikeway Trail, Fairgrounds Loop, Bartlett Shore Trail.
Waldo Country Trails Coalition founding memberUBR is one of eight organizations coming together to found the WCTC which aims to create a complete trail system in Waldo County.
Triplet ParkUBR accepted the donation of the property after a tragic fire in 2000, developed as a kid-oriented pocket park.
TIF DistrictUBR created Unity's TIF (Tax Increment Funding) District and the amendments to it.
Welcome SignsUBR created and placed the welcome signs at entry ways into town.
Town Web SiteA UBR volunteer created the town's website(unitymaine.org) in 2001 and still maintains it.
Shop Unity MaineUBR developed this online sales resource for theater ticket sales and donations to the food pantry and other organizations.
Fiscal Agent for Start-upsUBR acted as the fiscal agenct for several startup organizations including Veggies For All and Sebasticook Regional Land Trust.
Neighbor Warming Neighbor,UBR used a grant from Efficiency Maine to organize a local weatherization incentive program.
Community Meals, Celebrations and Special EventsUBR organizes special events for holidays including Christmas, Easter and Halloween; organized Celebrate Unity in 2014, and regularly hosts community meals using locally sourced foods.
Community KitchenUBR maintains a licensed kitchen in the Community Center that small businesses can rent.

Unity Barn Raisers has received numerous awards for its work and for its leadership:

  • In 2003, UBR was singled out by the Maine Community Foundation with receipt of the Noyce Award for Non-Profit Excellence.

  • In 2007, UBR was selected as a recipient of the World Hunger Year Harry Chapin Self-Reliance Award as a leader in the fight against hunger and poverty.

  • In 2008, UBR was honored as the Non-profit of the Year by the Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce.

  • In 2009, UBR received a Civic Engagement Citation from Unity College.