Funding for the Western Maine Play Museum still has a ways to go.

Organizers of the Wilton startup have raised $90,000 in pledges, donations and in-kind support over the last six months, still far short of the original goal of having raised the bulk of the funding for the $750,000 project by early next year.

Lori Lewis, vice president of the Western Maine Play Museum board, said volunteers were realistic from the beginning about how challenging it would be to raise that much money in a small community. However, she said that from her perspective as a retired teacher, she felt the number of low income families in the community would be less of a deterrent and more of a motivator in the effort.

“People said ‘This area is too poor, it will never fly.’ But having taught so many children from hardscrabble backgrounds, I thought they especially need this kind of enrichment opportunity,” said Lewis.

The children’s play museum is proposed to be built by renovating a donated 100-year-old home in the heart of downtown Wilton. Town officials have said they hope the proposed museum would be part of a new, positive direction in downtown development.

The challenge, she said, is to “maintain public energy” for the project fundraising when the people won’t see what their money is going toward until the museum is built.

Lewis said there are other sizable donations in the works. She said they feel positive about a possible $150,000 from an interested foundation. She also said they also are “quite sure” they will be granted $250,000 from a federal capstone grant.

In order for the new museum to open, organizers will need to have raised $500,000, Lewis said, because they don’t want to start the project if they don’t feel secure that it can be completed.

“We’re moving forward with the attitude that we will be able to do this,” she said. Their goal is still to open in 2015, she said.

Out of the total $750,000 organizers are trying to raise, $500,000 would be used to renovate the 4,500 square foot building to commercial building code standards and make it compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act standards. A local contractor has offered to perform the work on building, which formerly housed a medical practice, at cost.

Another $200,000 would be needed for exhibits and furnishings and $50,000 would be to create and outdoor green space.

Plans for the museum were started after founding board chair Angela McLeod and her husband took their children to a play museum in Boston and watched as they played and learned at the same time.

Lewis said the proposed start up budget was developed after a series of meetings and involved research into each specific cost associated with the project.

Donors Betty and Mark Shibles and the Colley family, who are sponsoring our Train Room, for a total donation of $25,000. Jeff Chaisson of Expenet in Wilton has donated 1 percent of his company’s profits to the museum, which was $170 this quarter. Barclays call center in Wilton gave a $10,500 matching donation.

Community groups, include the String Beings Celtic harp group, Franklin County Fiddlers and Teachers Lounge Mafia, have brought in more than $1700 from fundraising performances.

“However, one of the most memorable gifts we received involved an elderly woman who, beaming, handed to one of our board members two crumpled $5 bills, an amount which was clearly a very large donation for her,” she said. “That kind of generosity is inspiring. Every donation is important for our success.”

Among the donations received so far, few large donations have been made from individuals, Lewis said.

“We’ve actually been startled that the wealthiest are not eager to fund us,” she said.

The museum is instead having a focus on getting a large number of smaller donations .

Lewis said the challenge is that the museum is designed to appeal most to families with young children, but “families with small children don’t have that extra $1,000 to donate to us.” Lewis said their goal is to get 10,000 people to donate $25 or more.

Organizers have created a website donations and updates at www.westernmaineplay.org.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

[email protected]

 

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