Yaffe said two of the apartments have turned over in the 15 months they have been available.
"As their incomes go up, families can move into the fair-market housing that they can afford because it's not costing them 50 percent of their income. There is cheaper housing out there than these apartments, but it's not three bedrooms, and they aren't places where you might want to raise your kids."
Jamie Thompson-Oftorga and her family were the first tenants to sign a lease at the complex and have lived in their three-bedroom apartment since July 2011.
"This was truly an answer to my prayers," she said Monday. "We have two kids, a boy and a girl, and we were living in a small apartment on the second floor of house in Milbridge that was facing foreclosure. We had to get out, but we had nowhere to go. Now the kids each have their own bedrooms. It's been quite a change."
Jamie is white and was raised in Milbridge. Her husband, Reynaldo, is Hispanic. Their children, ages 5 and 8, both attend Milbridge Elementary School, as did Jamie some years ago. Reynaldo, she said, works seasonal jobs within Washington County's lobster, blueberry and wreath-making industries.
"This place is really nice, and they take very good care of it," she said of the Wyman Street complex.
Mano en Mano recently relocated to a new office complex at 2 Maple St. in Milbridge, Me., a building that most recently housed the Washington-Hancock Community Agency. That facility significantly expanded Mano en Mano's office space and provided a first-floor meeting room that can seat up to 50 people. The space is most frequently used for drop-in English and Spanish classes.
The agency's public programming includes adult education classes that offer individual and group instruction in language, computer literacy, GED preparation and workplace communication. Heading up that effort is Robin Lovrien, who began work this month as director of adult education. She brings to the job a doctorate in adult education and 45 years of teaching English as a second language, most recently in Washington, D.C.
"I'm working not only with Spanish-speakers who want to learn English to better communicate with their supervisors at their jobs, but supervisors who want to learn some Spanish so they can better communicate with the workers," Lovrien said. "I have a volunteer who developed a very innovative computer program that translates simple phrases so that you can hear the Spanish translation. One woman I work with, who runs a lobster pound with her husband, has put this on her phone and uses it in interacting with her Spanish-speaking workers."
Yaffe said Mano en Mano has a 2012 annual operating budget of $350,000, with $300,000 of that amount allocated to programming and $50,000 to operating the Hand in Hand Apartments and covering the building's debt service.
Operational costs are covered largely from grants awarded by a mix of 10 different foundations and charitable trusts. The rest comes from fundraising efforts. Last year's annual fundraising campaign attracted $19,000 from 90 different donors. The agency's current annual fundraising goal is $35,000, Yaffe said.
"Our annual fund gifts have grown pretty remarkably over the past several years," he said. "In 2010 we had $15,000 in donations. In 2011 that increased to $19,000. This year we are projecting that will jump to $30,000 as we engage more people in the community. About 50 percent of our donations come from the Washington County community. At this point we are chasing results, not dollars. If we can achieve what we want to achieve, the annual fund will sell itself."
Information about Mano en Mano can be found at www.manomaine.org.
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