The Westbrook-based nonprofit school Common Threads of Maine, founded in 2015 by Dory-Anna Richards Waxman, has appointed Apphia Kamanda and Jo Bell as co-directors. Eleven students are currently enrolled, all of them refugees, asylum seekers, or new citizens.

In addition to overseeing classes and teaching stitching skills, Kamanda and Bell have launched a business incubator at Common Threads of Maine where entrepreneurs can start up new textile and design businesses with the support, guidance, and tools of Common Threads’ staff.

On September 1 a new retail store will open on the third floor of the Dana Warp Mill, Suite 305, in Westbrook. The store will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and sell fabric, notions, and used sewing machines.

Kamanda and Bell led a project at the school during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic to train students in mask making. With Waxman assisting, they recruited and trained 47 students, who were hired by local textile manufacturers, including American Roots, Hyperlite Mountaingear, and Sea Bags.

Apphia Kamanda was a student in the very first class of Old Port Wool School of Professional Sewing in 2015. The school is now called Common Threads of Maine. She came to Maine as an asylum seeker from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Kamanda holds a degree in fashion design. Under her leadership, Common Threads’ curriculum now includes basic pattern making skills. Bell manages administration, grant writing, bookkeeping, marketing, development, and sewing machine maintenance.

Waxman said, “The school has always been about building dreams for all who come through our doors, and I look forward to watching it continue to a bright future,” said founder Dory-Anna Waxman.