BUCKSPORT, Maine (WABI) - Many small town economies in Eastern Maine have taken a hit in recent years.
Former mill towns are trying to revitalize their businesses.
One non-profit in Bucksport has taken it upon themselves to be the voice for the community.
"This was an opportunity to create a new Bucksport," explained Bucksport Heart & Soul Coordinator, Nancy Minott.
Since the mill closure in 2014, officials in Bucksport have been working hard to revitalize a town that once had plenty of economic development.
Heart and Soul is a non-profit group trying to find out what Bucksport residents value about their town by interviewing as many of them as possible.
Over the past year, many residents and business owners have shared the same themes.
"When we listen to stories in the past from older residents to stories from younger residents, they don't want to lose that. They don't want it to become a big town," said Minott.
Heart and Soul has collected stories from over 350 people. Now the group is taking their work to the next stage, condensing residents comments about the small town feel and community spirit and sharing them with others.
If all goes well, they will present them to the town council this spring.
"We really do need to shift that pyramid that communities are stronger, they're better, they're more caring about one another if they know each other and if they're a part of making the decisions," explained Minott.
Over time, the downtown group has discovered that folks value festivals, block parties, and a happening Main Street.
And in the last few months, Bucksport has seen two new businesses move in on Main Street.
Both say they can already see the positive change Heart and Soul is having on their community.
"Years ago it would have been different trying to open a business here. So, the energy is changing and it's really welcoming." explained Dawna Ashey, Owner of Blossoms By The Bay on Main Street.
"Our community is great. We wouldn't be possible without them and Heart & Soul is the one who gets the information out there to the town, and it's been wonderful," said Jan Simpson, Owner of Jan's Barber Shop and Bucksport Bay Tanning.