Greg Powell, chairman of the Harold Alfond Foundation, speaks Friday to a socially distanced ceremony dedicating a wellness program and the addition to the Alfond Youth and Community Center in Waterville. The addition and program were funded by the Alfond Foundation. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

WATERVILLE — The Alfond Youth & Community Center held a dedication ceremony Friday morning to mark the completion of the Peter G. Alfond Pathway to Wellness that has been years in the making.

The endeavor included an expansion to the 126 North St. facility funded by a $6.1 million gift from the Harold Alfond Foundation and a $100,000 investment in the after school program from the Burger-Roy Family Charitable Trust.

The expansion, which broke ground in 2018, added more than 15,000 square feet to the original facility and created an adult wellness center with fitness equipment, a child care center, a health care partner and an indoor running track, a welcome center, a teen space, a gathering area, community gardens, a greenhouse and 100 additional parking spaces.

Community partners and Alfond Center staff gathered at 11 a.m. Friday to celebrate the completion of the project with speeches, refreshments and tours around the facility.

Ken Walsh, the Alfond Center’s chief executive officer, began Friday’s ceremony by recalling when he first met Peter Alfond, son of the late philanthropist Harold Alfond.

“I had the opportunity to meet Peter Alfond in the early ’90s and for years we had conversations about wellness,” Walsh said. “Peter’s passion for wellness was obvious. … Today it’s really fitting that we have a wellness center named in his honor. … Thanks to the Harold Alfond Foundation, we are able to bring Peter’s vision to reality.”

Peter, a Waterville native, launched the Peter Alfond Foundation in 1994, which supports educational, health care and other charitable institutions in Maine, New England and in the Caribbean. He died in  July 2017 of complications from malaria he contracted on a trip to Africa. The Peter Alfond Foundation has a history of giving to other wellness projects.

In May, the Peter Alfond Foundation donated $40 million to MaineGeneral Health in support of preventive health programs and the expansion of services at the newly renamed Peter Alfond Prevention & Healthy Living Center.

Glass awards sit atop the podium Friday at the Alfond Youth and Community Center in Waterville during a dedication ceremony to honor Brent Burger and Michael Roy. The two donated $100,000 to support the center’s after school program. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

The foundation also gave an $8 million endowment to the Alfond Center to fund a wellness director position and wellness trainers.

Greg Powell, president and CEO of the Harold Alfond Foundation, noted that the same group of people have been working together to revitalize the city through wellness since the 1990s.

“Over 23 years ago, community leaders including many of you in this room, convened in a meeting at the Good Will Hinckley School to decide how we would all come together to do something never done before,” Powell said. “At that meeting, it was decided that the Waterville Boys and Girls Club, the Waterville YMCA and the city would come together as a team to build the best recreational center for youths. …

“At that meeting, and in the two decades that have followed, you all did something else. You sparked the revitalization of this city and then helped lead the revitalization with extraordinary teamwork, and today’s gathering proves you’re not resting on past accomplishments, but reaching to do more.”

Powell said that the work done by the center and its partners is bringing hope to central Maine.

“You are doing God’s work. …” Powell said. “Thanks to your leadership, vision and great effort, this city and region are brimming with hope, optimism and progress even in the most challenging of times.”

Brent Burger and Michael Roy are the owners of  Campbell’s Agway True Value, a five-store chain of lumber, hardware, pet, and lawn and garden stores in central Maine.

Together, the two have served on the Youth Center’s board of directors and have sponsored the after school program with a gift of $100,000.

Burger served as the project manager for the Peter G. Alfond Path to Wellness project. At Friday’s ceremony, he recalled how the project initially began as a small idea.

“We started having these conversations in 2014 thinking about how we might convert the library that was once upstairs into a gym or a little fitness center,” Burger said. “But for those of you who know Ken Walsh, that was never going to be enough. So over the course of the following three years, our library soon to become the fitness center, morphed into a 10,000-square-foot addition that impacted more than 15,000 square feet of this facility … and developed into a much more meaningful outcome. A focus on total wellness, to include the whole family, and what is now know as the Peter G. Alfond Pathway to Wellness.”

On a daily basis, the center’s after school program serves 200 children from ages 5 to 12.

Approximately 75% of the children who attend the program qualify for free and reduced meal programs and attend at no cost.

The program offers mentoring, tutoring, counseling, physical education, team sports, and nutrition and food preparation skills in the center’s teaching kitchen.

Additionally, the program distributes 85,000 snacks and meals annually, with weekend meal backpacks sent home every Friday afternoon to more than 125 families on a weekly basis.

Burger and Roy also created the Outdoor Youth Gardens which teaches gardening, healthy eating and sustainability so children know how to feed themselves.

“As you can see this labor of love, sweat and years has finally come to fruition,” Burger said. “And our timing couldn’t have been better when we first started this. We faced the most competitive labor market in more than 50 years, a double digit increase in material costs, and we capped it off with a pandemic that no one could ever have imagined. … I’m reminded that these were mere material challenges for us and they pale in comparison to what some of our kids endure each and every day.”

Burger said that those children are the reason the center has embarked on the projects to sustain and expand its operations.

“And it’s for those very children that we developed in this direction,” Burger said. “A direction to ensure the long-term financial sustainability of the Alfond Youth Center, of this facility, so that we may serve the at-risk indefinitely.”

Burger also recognized the “heavy lifting” done by Sheridan Construction Corporation and Harriman Associates, the project’s two primary partners.

The crowd at Friday’s ceremony also heard from Mark Lee, principal and chief executive officer of Harriman Associates; Mitch Sammons, president of Sheridan Construction Corporation; Barbara Crowley, executive vice president of MaineGeneral Health; and Scott Jones, board chairperson of the Alfond Youth and Community Center.

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