Society Notebook: Breweries hop in to help build houses, beer by beer

“To neighbors” was the toast at the Habitat for Humanity fundraiser at Batson River Brewing & Distilling in Kennebunk, where soon-to-be homeowners Derek and Alicia Harmon of Arundel were guests last month.

“I’m excited, thankful and grateful,” said Alicia, whose older son has respiratory difficulties that are difficult to manage living in an apartment complex.

The Harmons were looking into buying a modular home when their realtor referred them to Habitat for Humanity, who is giving them the chance to buy a healthy home for their family with an affordable mortgage.

Derek Harmon grew up in Arundel, served three tours in the Middle East with the 82nd Airborne Division and has been a sous chef at Hurricane restaurant in Kennebunkport for more than a decade.

“The market was always one step out of reach no matter how much I worked,” he said. “And we couldn’t believe Habitat for Humanity homes were being built in Cape Porpoise.”

Habitat for Humanity of York County received a land donation last year sufficient to build two homes on Mils Road in Cape Porpoise, a small coastal village within Kennebunkport. The foundations have been poured, and construction will begin this winter.

“We have to raise 50 percent of the cost before we start building,” said Development Director Michelle Robinson.

Over the summer, the York County nonprofit called Portside Real Estate, which has hosted Hops for Habitat fundraisers at breweries in previous years, asking if they could use the same event name. Portside has an office in Kennebunk and had already been thinking about doing a York County event, so that was an easy sell.

The next question was how to have a successful event without creating a large crowd during the pandemic. The answer was to spread it out over two months, offering a beer passport. A dozen breweries volunteered to give one free beer to passport holders between August and October, and the nonprofit sold 150 passports at $50 each.

“It’s a very good cause, and we did see new new people coming in,” said Galen Mott of Tributary Brewing Company in Kittery. “And the passports were cute.”

Customers loved the idea, too.

“It was definitely worth it,” said Kyle Short of Biddeford.

“We met so many cool people at the breweries,” added Megan Short.

Passport holders were invited to the concluding event Oct. 14 at Batson River, where there was a silent auction, live music by Andy MacLeod and, of course, food and beer. Altogether, the beer passports and the Hops for Habitat night at Batson raised $12,000.

“We understand this is to help build two houses,” said Laura Sacks of Ogunquit. “And we love this restaurant and brought some friends.”

Attendees also included Michael and Ronni Hass, who will be up-the-street neighbors of the Harmons next year. Ronni is part of a group of a few dozen local women who call themselves the Sand Witches. “Our misison is to do good deeds,” she said. “We jump in when people need help.”

Amy Paradysz is a writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at [email protected]


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