RUMFORD — Donations continue to pour in to Black Mountain of Maine after a funding crisis revealed last month threatened to close the beloved ski area.
This week, Bangor Savings Bank and Franklin Savings Bank announced efforts to help save Black Mountain.
At 10 a.m. Thursday, July 11, Yellow Light Breen and Andy Shepard will be at Black Mountain to announce a matching donation challenge from Bangor Savings Bank to help sustain the ski area.
Shepard is president of the Maine Winter Sports Center, which has owned and operated the nonprofit Black Mountain since 2003. Breen is the executive vice president at Bangor Savings Bank.
"Given the importance of this local ski area to the community, Bangor Savings Bank plans to match all new donations received — up to $25,000 — so that Black Mountain can raise essential funds to remain open," Stacey Haskell, vice president of Bangor Savings Bank, said in a news release.
On June 26, Shepard announced that the nonprofit Maine Winter Sports Center had closed the Rumford ski hill's Alpine mountain due to a funding crisis.
By a vote of 497-939, townspeople on June 11 defeated an initiated article that requested $51,000 to help carry the ski area through the summer, get it ready for winter and pay wages for three employees.
The center is still contemplating the fate of Black Mountain's Nordic center. Additionally, Shepard continues his search for a nonprofit organization to take over ownership of the ski area.
"There are a number of conversations ongoing at this point," Shepard said Wednesday afternoon.
On Monday, Franklin Savings Bank announced it donated $10,000 to Black Mountain and Sunday River Ski Resort in Newry donated $5,000.
When Franklin Savings Bank offered to match up to $10,000 in donations to save Black Mountain of Maine, “we had no idea it would happen so quickly,” Diane Perry, River Valley branches manager, said. “We are stunned, but quite pleased.”
Roger Arsenault, president of Black Mountain's Board of Trustees, deferred comment Wednesday on fundraising efforts to Shepard. But Shepard also declined to say just how much has been raised.
Shepard said there are many different fundraising initiatives under way. Among them are the banks and Sunday River, Shepard's Black Mountain of Maine Fund via online fundraising platform GoFundMe, Brian Gagnon's "Friends of Black Mountain of Maine Fund" on CrowdRise, another Internet fundraising platform, and Rumford Hospital's $10,000 sponsorship.
As of late afternoon Wednesday, Shepard's fund totaled $22,500 toward his goal of $100,000, while Gagnon's totaled $7,835 toward his goal of $55,000.
Shepard said people have even sent money directly to Black Mountain.
"I'm very encouraged by the way things are going," Shepard said. "This is exactly what you hope for.
"The support from the community has been absolutely inspiring and is a reflection of how important Black Mountain is to people across the country," he said. "It's clear that this is more than just a ski area; it's part of people's lives."
Just days after the match from Franklin Savings Bank was announced, the fundraising effort soared past $13,000, securing the $10,000 grant from the bank, Perry said.
Sunday River pledged to match an additional $5,000, so donors will still be able to double the impact of their donation, she said.
"At the rate donations are coming in, that second match could be secured soon," Perry said.
With the two matches included, donations are at about $23,000 just a week after the effort was initiated, she said.
To continue operating, the ski area needs $150,000.
“The community response has been outstanding!” Perry said. “Once word got around that the popular community ski area would close, everyone has rallied.
"It’s very touching to see these donations come in and hear the stories behind them," she said. "This little ski area means a lot to the people of the River Valley.”
Peter Judkins, president of Franklin Savings Bank, said Monday that Black Mountain "is a tremendous asset to the community and something that needs to be preserved.
“We are so fortunate to have three community ski areas in our bank-lending area," Judkins said. He was referring to Black Mountain, Titcomb Ski Slope in Farmington and Spruce Mountain Ski Slope in Jay.
"They provide families an affordable opportunity to learn to ski and acquire a skill that will provide them a lifetime of healthy, outdoor winter recreation activity.”
Each winter, Franklin Savings Bank provides a ski-free day at each of the three community ski areas.
“It’s so rewarding to see families come in to take advantage of the free lift tickets to learn to ski,” Judkins said. “Often, it’s the first time they have ever tried skiing.”
Arsenault has said that all donations to Black Mountain will be held in an account and be returned should the mountain not open.
"But remaining closed is really not an option,” Arsenault said.