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More than 20 years ago, four service organizations in the town of Fort Fairfield teamed together on a project that has had a lasting, visible impact on the community.  Members of the Knights of Columbus, Chamber of Commerce, Lions Club and the Rotary raised funds to purchase beautiful welcome signs that were placed at the major gateways in town. The picket fence design of the signs became a symbol for the community, welcoming visitors and residents alike home to ‘Friendly Fort Fairfield’, but Mother Nature and time have not been kind to the signs, and they have fallen into disrepair.

Just a few miles up the road from Fort Fairfield, students at the Loring Job Corps Center are busy learning valuable life skills in many professions and technical trades including carpentry, painting and wood-working.  These students, aged 16 to 24, often travel into the surrounding communities to work on projects, but when winter hits, there are less opportunities to develop their skills outside of the center.  While instructors keep their students engaged in the classroom, having meaningful projects that make an impact in their communities is preferable according to Job Corps carpentry instructor, James Hayes.

“Our students want to gain skills they can apply in the real world,” explained Hayes.  “So, while we can create good, hands-on learning opportunities in the classroom, we prefer to bring the students out to the job site, where the physical components of the project are not the only lessons they learn about their trade.  This opportunity is exciting for us because we can bring the real world into our classroom.”

In the coming days, crews from the Fort Fairfield Public Works Department will begin the painstaking process of taking down the large, weather-worn welcome signs and transporting them to the Loring Job Corps facility where they will be refurbished by the students this winter.  Rotted boards and supports will be replaced, the lichen covered wood will be sanded down and a fresh coat of paint will be applied to transform the signs back into like-new condition.

“Purchasing these signs was a pretty significant investment made on behalf of the community by members of the Fort Fairfield Chamber of Commerce, the Knights of Columbus, Rotary and Lions,” stated Tim Goff, executive director of the Chamber.  “We certainly got our money’s worth, as these signs have stood sentry at the four major gateways to our community for more than twenty years.  It will seem odd not to have them there to greet us for a few months, but we look forward to seeing the signs repaired, repainted and put back in place.”

“The arrangement is beneficial for all involved,” explained Goff.  “The signs will be rehabilitated, extending their useful life.  The students will get a chance to work on a highly visible project that is a source of community pride, providing them with a connection with our community while they learn some valuable skills.  And the service organizations have come together to work on yet another meaningful community project that not only connects us with each other, but connects us with some young people who are searching for their place in society.”

Refurbishing the old signs will also cost considerably less than replacing them with something new.  The service organizations will pick up the tab for the cost of materials, but the efforts of students and staff is free because the project is for nonprofit organizations and provides a tangible community benefit.

  “When this opportunity arose to work on these signs in our classroom, we jumped at the chance,” exclaimed Hayes.  “Now our students have a challenging project to work on this winter that they can take pride in, because they know they are doing something that will benefit the community and be seen by thousands of people, too!”

  A team of volunteers will paint the signposts that will be left in place, and work on the landscaping at the four locations, before the signs are reattached early next spring.

For more information, please contact Fort Fairfield Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Tim Goff at 472-3802 or tgoff@fortfairfield.org   or Kristie Moir, Center Director at Loring Job Corps, 328-4701 or moir.kristie@jobcorps.org.

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The Town of Fort Fairfield's new website is mobile friendly!  Access vital services and information, and stay up-to-date on events and meetings on your phone or mobile device.  Now, no matter where you are, the Town of Fort Fairfield is just a click away at www.fortfairfield.org 

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