Pool of money keeps YWCA open

LEWISTON — The YWCA of Central Maine will stay open after all.

Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

George Gendron, left, his mother, Priscilla, and father, Dolard, all of Lewiston, gave $50,000 Monday to help the YWCA keep its doors open. Priscilla Gendron has agreed to donate an additional $50,000 once another $100,000 is raised.

Since announcing its closure last Thursday, the 130-year-old institution has gathered $75,000 in donations and the promise of another $125,000 by the end of the week.

Leaders also plan to immediately begin a $1 million statewide fundraising campaign, aimed at erasing more than $700,000 in debt and making energy efficient improvements to the YWCA's nearly 40-year-old East Avenue building.

"We're running so fast," said Lee Young, president of the YWCA's five-member board of directors.

On Monday morning, one week after they voted to close, the board voted to remain open.

The resurgence was kicked off by Dolard "Del" Gendron, whose family owns a variety of Lewiston-area businesses, including contractors Gendron & Gendron and brokers Gendron Real Estate.

He had been reading about the closure in the newspaper and grew frustrated by its loss.

"To me, that didn't make any sense after all it does for Lewiston-Auburn," he said.

On Saturday morning, he wrote a check for $50,000 and drove to the YWCA. The doors were closed.

At a news conference Monday afternoon at the YWCA, he finally presented the check to Young. At his side sat his wife, Priscilla, their son, George, and his wife, Diane.

George Gendron has pledged to use his business contacts to lead a statewide fundraising drive. And Priscilla has pledged to donate $50,000 more when the women of Maine meet Gendron's challenge to raise $100,000.

"Nobody knows what's going on and we've raised this much money," Del Gendron said. "Wait until the word spreads. I have all the faith in the world that we will raise the money."

Faith in the fundraising effort's success was what convinced the YWCA's directors to support staying open, Young said.

"George knows the building," she said. "He knows what we need."

After all, he has been helping the YWCA for months. The contractor approached the agency at the start of the summer with an offer of free, ongoing repairs to the building.

One of his goals is to make the building more fuel efficient, he said.

The building currently uses about 30,000 gallons of oil each winter, Executive Director Pam Gallant said. The cost of purchasing oil was one of the pressures that sent the YWCA into collapse.

The agency currently owes $565,000 on its mortgage and $150,000 in unpaid bills, the majority in heating and repairs.

Before the fundraising effort ends, they hope to erase all the debt and have enough money to replace the heating system and make other green changes.

"We have every intention of getting that million dollars," bookkeeper Tamela Paradis said.

Until then, the YWCA plans to run its programs without interruption, Young said.

The agency serves about 1,000 swimmers of all ages and between 75 and 150 children per week. It also hosts a variety of meetings including weekly dances for people with special needs.

The goal now is to ignite the fundraising drive, said board member Marcia Baxter, who encouraged people to make any donation possible.

As the donations began to come in during the weekend, Young directed Gallant to begin calling the agency's staff.

She spread the good news and asked them to stop looking for other jobs.

"It was like an adrenaline rush," Gallant said.

After all, she spent much of last week informing staff about the closure and grieving over the agency. She was often reduced to tears.

"You can imagine the roller-coaster ride we've all been on," Young said.

To make a donation, contact the YWCA at 795-4050.

dhartill@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

YWCA

YES, FELIX SOME OF YOUR QUESTIONS MAY HAVE SOME MERIT, BUT YOU REALLY DON'T HAVE ALL OF YOUR FACTS, JUST LIKE BRIAN & TRON, MAYBE IT'S A PERSON LIKE YOU, WITH ALL YOUR VAST KNOWLEDGE, THAT CAN HELP DIRECT THE YWCA IN WHAT YOU SAY "SOUND FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT DIRECTION". JUST MAYBE, YOUR BLOWING SMOKE, LIKE OTHER NEGATIVE PEOPLE!! FOR YOUR INFO. 1) THE YWCA DOES HAVE A AUDITED FINANCIAL STATEMENT DONE EVERY YEAR, JUST TO SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT. 2) I'M SURE YOU REALIZE, BEING THE SMART PERSON THAT YOU ARE, THE ECONOMY IS IN THE TOILET, MANY OF THE U.S. BUSINESS SALES ARE DOWN. I'M SURE YOU KNOW, WHEN MONEY IS TIGHT, YOU HAVE THREE CHOICES, BRING PRICES UP, CUT EXPENSES, OR GO OUT OF BUSINESS. WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE THE YWCA DO? BRING UP PRICES TO LHS, EL & ST.DOMS SWIM TEAMS? OR A BETTER IDEA, LETS BRING UP PRICES TO THE ELDERLY AND THE YOUNG PEOPLE JUST STARTING THEIR LIVES WITH CHILDREN, OR THE DISABLED!! MAYBE IN YOUR MIND THAT WILL WORK. BUT THESE SCHOOLS AND PEOPLE, WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO AFFORD THE HIGHER PRICES. 3) IN MY HOUSEHOLD, EXPENSES ARE GOING UP ALL AROUND ME, GASOLINE, ELECTRICITY, FOOD, RENT, OIL HEAT, TO NAME A FEW. JUST OIL HEAT FOR THE YWCA, WENT FROM $40,OOO, TO AS HIGH AS $120,000 A YEAR. MAYBE IN YOUR WORLD, THESE HIGHER PRICES DIDN'T HAPPEN, BUT FOR THE REST OF US, IT DID! 4) BACK IN THE EARLY 90'S, THE STATE AND FEDERAL GOVERMENT HELPED SUBSIDISE COMMUNITY PROGRAMS, WHICH HELPED DEFER SOME OF THE YWCA'S FIXED EXPENSES. THAT MONEY IS DRIED UP. LASTLY, I BELIEVE THAT PRESIDINT LEE YOUNG AND THE BOARD, UNDER EXTREME CHALLEGES HAVE DONE THEIR BEST. I AM IN HOPES THAT THE COMMUNITY WILL BE ABLE TO RAISE THE $1,000,000. DOLLARS. OUR BUSINESS AND COMMUNITY LEADERS MUST STEP UP TO THE PLATE TO EXPAND THE BOARD, PROVIDE SOUND MANAGEMENT, FINANCIAL GUIDNENCE AND HELP IN FINDING NEW INNOVATIVE PROGRAMS. IF WE CAN DO THIS, AS A REAL CARING COMMUNITY, THE YWCA CAN ONCE AGAIN BE A PROSPEROUS, THRIVING COMMUNITY CENTER. LETS PUT AWAY THE NEGATIVES TO WORK ON THE POSITIVE, SO OUR CHILDREN, ELDERLY AND SPECIAL PROGRAMS CAN CONTINUE TO ENJOY THE YWCA.

 's picture

YAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY. THANK

YAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY. THANK YOU

 's picture

Some one found the YWCA's pulse, THANK YOU!

Let me just say first of all THANK YOU Gendrons for your unselfish contribution!

I know how difficult these times are for public entities such as the Y. Many libraries, parks, schools, and others are struggling with the realities of the "new economy". The philanthropists are fewer than ever and the demands put on these institutions are greater as each week passes. The Y was hit with a perfect storm if you will. Rising costs along with a declining revenue streams... always a recipe for disaster.

I think that the board of directors were faced with the dilemma of trying to keep things going till the economy/donations/memberships increased. I have a lot of respect for these individuals. They were trying to keep all afloat and in check during a very difficult period. As far as I'm concerned they have nothing to be ashamed of! I support what they did wholeheartedly. Until you're faced with the same fiscal crisis that they were, judgment should be reserved.

 's picture

$1,000,000

A million dollars doesn't go as far as it used to - especially when you consider that a good size house goes for @ $300,000. When you start thinking about a brick commercial building, pool, gym, child care classrooms, ADA access, a heating and cooling system for not only the building but a pool, water pumps, bleachers, all the things that the YWCA has for an infrastructure, the total would be far more than a million dollars. Then there's the consideration that zoning regulations are not what they were when the YWCA was initially built. So a new building would have to confirm to all the new codes. I read about a high school renovation that cost $20 million with new ones costing double that.

A million dollars will give the YWCA a new start. It's what they do with the new start that concerns me. The last thing we want is for a handful of years to go by and then see another article announcing closure for whatever reason. They need funding, membership, and leadership. They need to offer programs that the community will value and want to become a member for. When you look at it overall, public pools don't bring in enough money to pay for themselves (chemicals, water, heat, fuel, lifeguards, etc.). Swim lessons, water aerobics programs, and pool fees bring in some money, but not enough. For the YWCA, it's the childcare program that's paying been keeping the doors open and paying for the staff. If we assume that enrollment is not at full capacity because of the economy then that reduces the Y's ability to pay for staff, increasing heating expenses, mortgage, vendor bills, etc. Yes there is other income from membership fees, birthday parties, and whatever classes/programs they might hold like the kickboxing class they used to hold, but not in significant quantities. They need to add programs that are going to draw people, and give people who were members a reason to re-join as a member, and a reason for new people to join as well.

 's picture

I completely agree!

I completely agree!

 's picture

Audit Needed

I agree with Brian....the building has been there for 40 years and I'm sure the cost to build the building has been more than paid off. Yes I'm sure many of the mechanical systems need replacing, (Heat, AC, Roof, Electrical updates, pool work & general updates to the building, but this shouldn't be $700,000 in debt al at one time....it seems that somebody should do a good review of the books for the past few years

 's picture

Brain just wants to audit

Brain just wants to audit everything. Do you understand what an audit is? I doubt it. There is no indication of fraud here. By the way, if you're so smart, how come you don't volunteer your time to be on a local non-profit board? I do. It's not as easy as you'd like to think.

It's a seemingly an older building that has mechanical systems that are nearing the end of their useful life. The building wasn't designed with modern energy efficient technology. It is reliant upon oil, which has increased in price by a lot in the past decade.

Thanks to the Gendrons for their generosity. At a time when businesses much larger than them (read Wal-Mart) don't contribute to the community in any substantial way anymore, it goes to show that local businesses are far more important to the area than the proliferation of national chain stores. How about it Wal-Mart - how about kicking in $250k or more?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

I don't think anyone is even

I don't think anyone is even suggesting fraud, Dave. It is apparent, though, that some things definitely have to be looked at. The situation did deteriorate to an alarming point. Why weren't the cries for help forthcoming sooner? Why did they wait until it was time to close the doors before going public? I think a hard look has to be taken towards current management.
Thanks to the Gendrons; good luck with getting Walmart to put up a quarter mill.

 's picture

Very generous, and a great

Very generous, and a great cause, as well.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Does cause one to wonder if

Does cause one to wonder if fiscal mismanagement may have been taking place. Kudos to the Gendron family for stepping up.

YWCA benafactors

Agreat story, I went to high school with George, and hewas astar on the swim team Thank you, Gendron family !

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