In July of 2008 the Swan’s Island library was completely destroyed in a devastating fire.
Islanders have been working since then to raise money to rebuild the library, with the help of many people and organizations.
Recently they had reason to celebrate with the April announcement that the Swan’s Island Education Society has been awarded a $398,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture to put towards a new library.
The society hopes to put bids out for the project in May, said Candis Joyce, director of the society.
The new library and community center is estimated to cost $1.2 million. The Swan’s Island Education Society raised about $125,00 through donations, grants, and a fundraiser called New Pages, in which art was created from burned pages from the fire, according to Joyce. That fundraiser netted $46,000.
The $125,000 also included a $50,000 grant from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation and a $20,000 award from the Virginia Wellington Cabot Jimmy Grant program.
In addition, the society received $605,000 in insurance money, according to Lewis Sirois, area loan specialist for USDA Rural Development, in Bangor.
Joyce was at a Reading Round-Up conference in Augusta when she got news of the USDA grant on her cell phone from Ken Dutille, society president. She told friends and Siobhan Ryan, a former Island Institute Island Fellow, and then shared the news with her fellow conference attendees, most of whom were librarians.
“The room roared when I made the announcement,” Joyce said. “It was great, although my napkin, twisted into shreds, would probably not agree with me.”
The USDA funds are part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The money is provided through the USDA Rural Development Community Facilities program, which helps finance essential public community facilities in rural areas, according to a USDA press release.
“This is a significant grant for us,” said Lewis Sirois, area loan specialist for USDA Rural Development, in Bangor. In fact, Swan’s Island received the largest grant of the over 100 projects in 32 states.
The Swan’s Island award was also the maximum grant possible in this program. Up to 35 percent of the total cost of the program can be awarded, and no more, said Sirois.
Several factors helped Swan’s Island win the grant: the project met all program requirements; there was a complete loss due to fire; the society was not able to pay for a new building with its own resources; and the town is considered a low-income area, Sirois said. A project also has to be “shovel ready.”
David A. Tyler is editor of The Working Waterfront.