GARDINER — Gracie Russell was wholly focused on the plastic rocket in front of her — moving the astronauts and their gear around and loading them for a launch.

Not far from where Gracie, 3 1/2, played, her father, grandmother and great-grandmother looked around the new room where Gracie will spend her days at the new Boys & Girls Club of Kennebec Valley.

The room, color coded yellow, features a play area, a small kitchen, a bathroom and direct access to an outside play area.

“It’s a beautiful building,” Mary Russell, Gracie’s grandmother, said.

The family was among the dozens of people to tour the new $10 million facility Saturday as club officials hosted a community open house before the clubhouse opens for business at 6:30 a.m. Monday.

For the last 15 months, they and others have watched as the new clubhouse has been under construction next to the former Pray Street School, which has housed the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley for nearly two decades. Two weeks ago, club staff and volunteers closed down that building and moved into the new building to get ready for Monday’s opening.


“Monday is the day,” Ingrid Stanchfield, chief executive officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs, said, standing in the foyer, greeting parents of club kids both past and present. “It’s been a long haul.”

A little less than three years ago, club officials announced the public phase of fundraising for a facility that would allow it to expand both child care and after-school care in Gardiner, along with improved facilities for use by community groups.

People cheer Saturday after CEO Ingrid Stanchfield cuts the ribbon to officially open the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley’s new Sandra M. Prescott Clubhouse in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

At the ribbon-cutting that launched Saturday’s open house, Gardiner Mayor Patricia Hart praised the club and its employees.

“This facility is not only going to provide wonderful child care and after-school care services for our community,” Hart said, “but it’s also an important part of our local economy, helping parents and caregivers have a wonderful place for their children to go while they go to work.”

Hart said she’s met with a number of families in the last few years that have moved to the Gardiner area to be able to take advantage of the club and its services. She expects that will continue and that it will also be a draw for business.

“This building is here because so many people in our community and outside of our community chose to invest in our youth,” Hart said. “Everybody gave something to make this happen, and I am so proud of Gardiner and of all of you.”


The building has been named for Sandra M. Prescott, who is married to Peter Prescott, one of the three chairpersons of the club’s capital campaign; that announcement came at an event for donors held Friday evening.

“It was such a surprise to me,” Prescott said Saturday during a tour of the building. “I didn’t sleep all night. I was absolutely shocked.”

Preschool room staffer Sarah Tibbetts, left, talks with one of her students, Gracie Russell, Saturday during tour at Boys & Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley’s new Sandra M. Prescott Clubhouse in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Prescott shares a link to the facility that goes beyond her support of the project. As a child, she attended the Pray Street School, and as an adult returned there as a fifth-grade teacher in the same room where she attended fifth grade.

“I’m just amazed at how this whole complex came out,” she said.

With the building’s larger footprint, it will be able to accommodate more children, Stanchfield said.

“We’ll have about 200 for childcare, and right now, I think we have about 150 for the teen center, but they won’t all show up every day.”


Even with the larger facility, Stanchfield said the club could have tripled the amount of space dedicated to early childcare based on the demand, but it wouldn’t have been able to hire enough staff.

In the long term, she said, the club will evaluate how spaces now dedicated to school-age children might be used for early childcare between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., when those spaces won’t be occupied.

“If I’m a parent and I can’t find any childcare, that’s better than nothing,” she said. “I have people calling from all over because parents are willing to drive.”


Editor’s Note: The photo captions for this story have been updated to reflect that the new building is named after Sandra M. Prescott. 

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