City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More
Courtesy of ARQ Architects

Featured Article

On the Doorstep of Dignity

A New Social Services Hub Under One Roof

Hope is settling into a new home at Mainspring: The Seacoast Social Service Collective. This groundbreaking nonprofit will be an inviting sanctuary amidst today’s challenging economic times for people in need across Southern Maine and the NH Seacoast because poverty doesn’t conform to town, county, or state lines. 

Slated to open in the Fall of 2024 in Kittery, Mainspring embraces the growing trend of integrating social services under one roof. Offering more than food and shelter, the organization takes a holistic approach, aiming to support the whole person and family instead of one need at a time. 

Mainspring will include a market-style food bank, housing services, a thrift store, medical and mental healthcare programs, and veteran services. It will also offer support services like substance abuse recovery, legal aid, job training, and employment and fuel assistance. Shower and internet facilities will provide needed personal hygiene and communication access, while a warming/cooling center will offer refuge from the summer heat and winter cold.

Co-founders Emily Flinkstrom of Fair Tide and Megan Shapiro-Ross of Footprints Food Pantry joined forces in 2021 to lead this effort, which broke ground last November. This one-stop center for assistance aims to eliminate maneuvering through the complex social services labyrinth, which makes searching for help a full-time job. Plans for a shared database across agencies will ease this burden, saving individuals and agencies valuable time. This streamlined approach relieves the stress of traveling to multiple locations for support and the endless paperwork required. At its core, this relief is a lifeline to human dignity.

Breaking the mold of the sterile, institutional assistance office, Mainspring will be a beautiful, spacious facility, reflecting the founders’ vision of a welcoming, calming space--a haven for those seeking respect above all else. “It goes beyond having all these services under one roof,” says Emily Flinkstrom. “We will work collaboratively to wrap our arms around these individuals and families to help them navigate a pathway out of poverty.”

The myriad issues poverty brings are intertwined. Job loss leads to food insecurity, which may cause health problems. Rising housing costs drive homelessness. Individuals and families can easily be overwhelmed with many needs, making the Mainspring model of connected services crucial. 

One patron of Fair Tide and Footprints understands this all too well. As a single mother, her unemployment led to food insecurity, a lack of transportation, and nearly the loss of her children. She credits these nonprofits with keeping her family together. “Without these services,” she says, “I wouldn’t have custody of my children.” Struggling to reach the necessary locations to secure the assistance needed, she is eager for the relief this one-stop solution brings.

Shapiro-Ross is careful to point out that, "While many don’t see poverty in our community, it does exist; it’s just not always plainly visible." Many people living below the poverty threshold work two jobs but still cannot make ends meet. Seeking assistance often carries a stigma, but Mainspring intends to remove the stigma by building agency and capacity in each individual to fully thrive, not just survive. 

Community is the lifeblood of this nonprofit venture. Generous donors and campaign steering committee members like Peter Lamb and Faith Harrington have been instrumental in getting this endeavor off the ground. Lamb and Harrington are deeply committed to the Mainspring cause and believe it is the “future heartbeat” of the Seacoast area. Of this new collaborative approach, they say, “We expect the health and spirit of our community will soar.”

Mainspring’s tireless founders strive to systematically and strategically change how we solve poverty by bringing a deeper understanding of this complex social issue and demonstrating how communities can help. They are confident this model puts us on the right track. With high expectations, they envision a future where everyone on the Seacoast can access the resources and support needed to thrive.

For more information, go to In addition to financial donations, seacoast residents can help through advocacy programs like hosting a house party and in-kind contributions—email to get involved.

  • Courtesy of Suzanne Esposito
  • Courtesy of ARQ Architects
  • Courtesy of ARQ Architects