GARDINER — The Boys & Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley expects to break ground on its new building in the spring, thanks to meeting a year-end fundraising challenge.

All told, the organization collected $1,013,633 over eight weeks to earn the $1 million match pledged by an anonymous donor late last year.

“The donations range from $250,000 to $10 — and everything in between — from people far and wide,” said Ingrid Stanchfield, executive director of the Gardiner-based Boys & Girls Clubs. “People that we knew, people that were close to people we know and people we didn’t know. One donor stated they were giving a gift because one of their grandfathers had been the president of Boys & Girls Club of America for years and they live local.”

One of the gifts came via another Gardiner organization, the Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center. Staff members, board members and supporters donated $42,110 of their own money.

“When we talk to economic development people, they talk about the Boys & Girls Clubs as a major driver of why a lot of people move to the Gardiner area — because they have that as a resource,” said Michael Miclon, Johnson Hall’s executive artistic director. “This bolsters the whole community. We’re thrilled that’s going to get done, and it’s going to be an even bigger, better program than it is right now.”

Even though Johnson Hall is in the middle of its own fundraising campaign to renovate its large theater and make other improvements to the historic opera house, Miclon said staff and board members felt it was an important enough project to reach into their own pockets to support it.

“The public health and economic crises have shown us where we need more investment and community support,” Mayor Patricia Hart said. “Chief among the areas of great need is access to safe, supportive child care.

“I am delighted to hear that the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Kennebec Valley has been successful in raising the funds they need to build a new, modern facility to serve our children and the greater community.”

In October 2019, organization officials announced plans to build a $10 million facility on its  property next to the current building, and had launched the public phase of the fundraising campaign.

This rendering shows a view of the planned new facility of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley in Gardiner. Image courtesy of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley

The building, which will replace the aging former Pray Street School the club has occupied for about two decades, will be a third larger than the existing building. With the additional space,  the organization will be able to expand its child care offerings for children 6 weeks old or older and expand its capacity to serve school-age children in after-school programs and senior citizens who also use the facility.

The global coronavirus pandemic announced in March 2020, however, called a halt to fundraising activities, suspended the projected construction timeline that was scheduled to start in April and prompted the Boys & Girls Clubs to focus on providing child care for essential workers.

Now, Stanchfield said, construction is expected to start soon as possible, while club officials continue to work on raising the remaining $1.38 million.

“This effort here has really guaranteed that we can break ground in the spring,” Stanchfield said.

That is a year later than the expected start of construction. The additional time, however, has been used to review the building plans.

While the building was designed before the pandemic was declared, its elements — including bathrooms in all program areas and direct access from classrooms to the outside — can help maintain social distances during situations, such as the current pandemic, and allow the building to be evacuated quickly in a crisis, she said.

Once the new building is complete, the existing building is expected to be razed and be replaced with a soccer field.

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