Greg Glynn, of Marshall Communications, right, takes a group shot recently during a photo shoot in Gardiner to announce Central Maine Power’s $75,000 donation to Boys & Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

GARDINER — A gift from Central Maine Power is marking the restart of a fundraising campaign by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley for a new, larger building.

On Thursday, Central Maine Power announced a $75,000 donation, which coincided with Lights On Afterschool, a national event that celebrates after-school programs, and the role they play for families and communities.

David Flanagan, executive chairman of Central Maine Power, said CMP is excited to kick off the Boys & Girls Clubs renewed capital campaign with its gift.

“During this pandemic, CMP has prioritized supporting local organizations that keep our communities safe and healthy,” Flanagan said in a company news release. “The dedication of the club during these challenging times meant that children continued to receive vital services, including academic and social supports. CMP is proud to support their incredible efforts and looks forward to turning the lights on inside their new facility.”

Ingrid Stanchfield, chief executive officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley, said the organization suspended its fundraising activities earlier this year because it was unclear how the global coronavirus pandemic would affect the regional economy.

“The donation today from Central Maine Power will help us get to our eventual goal,” Stanchfield said. “When you consider what it is like to be a child or teen who needs some extra help or a safe place to go after school, that doesn’t stop during a pandemic; we are that place.”

Just about a year ago, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley announced plans to build a new, larger facility next to the current building, a 60-year-old former school on Pray Street. It launched the public phase of its $10 million “Great Futures” fundraising campaign with the goal of raising the final $3 million.

Under the original timeline, construction was expected to start in April, but that was delayed. Active fundraising was suspended after the pandemic was declared in March.

The club initially closed its doors not only for its own programs but for other groups that use the facility as a gathering place. At the end of March, it reopened to provide child care for essential workers. Since the start of the school year, the club has opened its doors to school-age kids to give them a place for remote learning when they aren’t in school. Normally, children come to the club for before- and after-school care. At the same time, the ratio of staff to children has been reduced from between one and 13 workers to between one and 10 workers under updated child care licensing regulations.

“The urgency of the new building is even greater now than what it was before,” Stanchfield said.

When it’s complete, the 32,000-square-foot building will allow the club to expand its capacity for daily child care and after-school programs. And its design, based on pods, provides more direct access for parents picking up and dropping off their kids.

Until the pandemic was declared, parents were able to come into the existing building through the lobby to drop off or pick up their children in their classrooms. With restrictions currently in place, Stanchfield said, they’re no longer able to do that; staff members are escorting children back and forth.

“With the new construction and the new design, a parent could feasibly walk to the infant room to drop their child off or see the staff,” she said. “In a health crisis like we’re in now, there would be less exposure to other people because they are coming to that one door and the children are staying in a brand-new, age-appropriate room and being picked up there. Right now, we have that one, long hall that we have to walk through. And it’s really hard to restrict the movement, because you really can’t.”

The Boys & Girls Clubs in Gardiner got its start in 1999 as the successor to the city’s youth recreation program. Since then, it has served more than 20,000 kids from Gardiner and surrounding towns. A satellite program operates in Chelsea.

It’s not clear when construction on the new building will start, but Stanchfield said the target is next spring, after the remaining design work is completed.

When the new building is complete, the current building will be razed and turned into soccer fields.

“The new clubhouse will really position us to be able to be more consistent, no matter what happens,” Stanchfield said.

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