LEWISTON — The YWCA of Central Maine is nearing the halfway point in its $1 million fundraising effort.

“It’s almost $500,000,” said Lee Young, president of the YWCA chapter’s board. “We’ve gone a long way and we have a long way to go.”

Recent changes have included the creation of a building committee to lead efficiency changes in the 39-year-old complex on East Avenue and efforts to erase debt.

The YWCA has paid off $100,000 of its roughly $500,000 mortgage and is catching up on its debt to vendors.

The situation was far worse only five months ago.

On Aug. 19, YWCA leaders announced the closure of the 130-year-old chapter. They informed workers, creditors, day care clients and die-hard swimmers who had built a community around their daily exercise.

Five days later — after the closure news had spread and donations began pouring in — the YWCA board reversed its decision.

They set a $1 million goal, aimed at paying off the chapter’s debt and shrinking escalating utility costs.

Donations began with pennies and nickels and surged to tens of thousands of dollars. There have been crafting days, a used-car sale and a “swim-athon.”

Among them, the city of Lewiston has pledged $10,000 toward the completion of an energy audit of the building. Leaders are desperate to reduce the estimated 30,000 gallons of heating oil used each year.

Young said she expects lots of ideas for the modernization, particularly for heating and pool-related systems.

Currently, the YWCA is offering free two-week memberships aimed at giving people a sample of its facilities and programs.

However, it wasn’t their idea, Young said.

People were confused by a two-week offer at the YMCA in Auburn. Rather than send them away, Young and others figured it was an opportunity.

“We’ve often done get-acquainted or try-out weeks,” she said. “The exposure can’t hurt.”

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