Unity Barn Raisers is a unique, successful community organization with twenty-three years of grass roots organizing and creative thinking.
This has resulted in many notable accomplishments ranging from a revitalized downtown and re-energized farms to new programs for underserved residents. 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 the 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, Maine). 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 downtown. UBR tackled this challenge with several creative projects. These included: transforming a vacant downtown building into a vibrant new community center with a community gym, commercial kitchen, and community room; 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 and solar 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… 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 Beach… UBR 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 School… UBR 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 Street… UBR bought the property for possible use as a children’s library. Later acquired by Maine Farmland Trust for use as offices.
- 100 Main Street… UBR bought this historic building in the center of town, renovated it, rented it and later sold it to AAA Cellular.
- 205 Depot Street… UBR 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 Street… UBR purchased the land, leased it and later sold it to Freedom Insurance Company.
- 64 Main Street… UBR 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 College… UBR 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 System… UBR developed a series of trails including Connor Mill Trail, Bikeway Trail, Fairgrounds Loop, Bartlett Shore Trail.
- Waldo Country Trails Coalition founding member… UBR is one of eight organizations coming together to found the WCTC which aims to create a complete trail system in Waldo County.
- Triplet Park… UBR accepted the donation of the property after a tragic fire in 2000, developed as a kid-oriented pocket park.
- TIF District… UBR created Unity’s TIF (Tax Increment Funding) District and the amendments to it.
- Welcome Signs… UBR created and placed the welcome signs at entry ways into town.
- Town Web Site… A UBR volunteer created the town’s website(unitymaine.org) in 2001 and still maintains it.
- Shop Unity Maine… UBR developed this online sales resource for theater ticket sales and donations to the food pantry and other organizations.
- Fiscal Agent for Start-ups… UBR 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 Events… UBR 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 Kitchen… UBR maintains a licensed kitchen in the Community Center that small businesses can rent.