LEWISTON — When Doug Breunig walked through the door of the YWCA Friday, his shoulders were slumped and his face flushed.

Silently, he gave Executive Director Pam Gallant a hug.

“Coming here is more than just exercise,” said Breunig, a regular swimmer here for at least 15 years. “It’s going to be a huge loss.”

As the facility readied to close its pool to the public, people around the community began looking for places to fill the gaps left by the YWCA of Central Maine.

On Thursday, the Lewiston-Auburn institution announced its closure. Its 130-year run will end on Sept. 3.

“It’s sad,” said Brian DuBois, the executive director of the Auburn-Lewiston YMCA. “The YWCA has been providing services for all populations for a long time.”

On Friday morning, DuBois met with his management team and began working on a plan to boost the space in his child care and aquatic programs to help people displaced from the YWCA.

“We have received a ton of calls,” he said. As a courtesy, the YMCA is offering free one-month memberships to anyone who was a YWCA member.

“We’re rearranging program space,” DuBois said. “We’re changing our pool schedule.”

DuBois said he was saddened that his group had to pass when YWCA leaders suggested a merger.

“There was too much debt,” he said. “It would have stretched us too thin.”

That debt, more than $700,000, is what forced the YWCA to close, its leaders said Thursday.

Payments on the remaining $560,000 mortgage were too high. Bills to vendors were more than $150,000, bookkeeper Tamela Paradis said.

Leaders plan to sell the East Avenue building and use the proceeds to pay off the mortgage and other debt.

If a donor could pay off that debt, the YWCA could remain open, its executive director said Friday.

“We want this here for the community, but we need to pay our bills,” Gallant said.

Marcia Baxter and Toni Ramsey, two members of the YWCA Board of Directors and former staffers, repeated the sentiment.

“If we had enough people come forward with significant money, we would stay open,” Baxter said.

City Administrator Ed Barrett said Friday he had received calls from people asking if the city might help the YWCA.

“It’s obviously something we’re concerned about,” he said. He said the city plans to talk with YWCA leaders in the coming days.

Meanwhile, smaller constituencies were also showing concern.

The pool has been used by swim teams from Lewiston High School, St. Dominic Academy and Edward Little High School for practices and meets. All three will have to find another pool.

When questioned by the Sun Journal, Lewiston High School Athletic Director Jason Fuller had no comment. Dan Deshaies, Edward Little High’s athletic director, had learned about the closure Friday in the newspaper.

“We’re still trying to figure out what the situation is,” he said. He planned to call Bates College to check on the availability of its pool. The Sun Journal was unable to reach a spokesman from the college for comment.

For Baxter and Ramsey, the situation is heartbreaking.

On Friday morning, Gallant posted photos in the lobby. Beneath placards, she spread out photo albums and old YWCA publications.

With Baxter and Ramsey, she flipped through color and black-and-white photos, talking about people who had long ago learned to swim at the YWCA, attended its camp or went to day care at the old Pine Street building.

That building was sold in the early 1970s, Baxter said. The sale helped build the current East Avenue building.

“This time, it’s sad because so much was still happening here,” Ramsey said.

[email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.