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

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.

[email protected]


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