DOVER-FOXCROFT – While there had been many uses of the Park Street land over the years, from a harness racing track to a spool factory storage yard, nothing took root on the property until the Piscataquis Regional YMCA was conceived.
The land was donated to the organization by the town, money was raised to construct a building and the YMCA’s roots were planted on May 23, 1988. Those roots have become rugged over 20 years, nurtured by a dedicated group of volunteers, a hard-working board of directors, supportive businesses and contributing communities.
To help celebrate the YMCA’s 20th anniversary Thursday, the Piscataquis Chamber held its After Hours event at the facility during which a short program was presented.
Jere White, the YMCA’s executive director, said the YMCA has reorganized itself in-house and plans to make itself a more visible part of Piscataquis County. He thanked the YMCA’s board of directors for seeing the organization through “rocky” times.
Russ Page, executive director of the chamber, said the YMCA is not about buildings and it’s not about things – it’s really all about people, people starting it and the communities supporting it.
Three of those people who have long played a role in the local YMCA were recognized by YMCA member Patti Harris of Sangerville and were presented with plaques. They were Marion Smith, Butch Larrabee and White, all of Dover-Foxcroft.
Local historian Louis Stevens of Sangerville, a staunch supporter of the YMCA, gave participants a history lesson on the YMCA organization and took them down memory lane.
The Young Men’s Christian Association was conceived 164 years ago in England when resident George Williams had a desire to provide a place where young British men could come together to read the Bible, relax and reside, Stevens said. Eleven years later, a British woman started a similar organization for women called the Young Women’s Christian Association. Both organizations soon leaped to the United States. Both basketball and volleyball were invented by YMCA members, he said.
Fast forward to the late 1980s, when a Dover-Foxcroft man had the same desire as Williams. Former resident Barry Costa organized a YMCA Without Walls and operated programs in local communities.
In August 1985 Costa enlisted the support of others, started a $1.3 million capital campaign and received enough pledges to build a YMCA with walls. Thirty children helped break the ground on May 23, 1988, for the building on land that previously had been a pasture, a harness racing track and fairgrounds, Foxcroft Academy’s football field, and a spool factory storage yard, according to Stevens.
The members of the Piscataquis Regional YMCA are part of 24 million YMCA members around the world, Stevens said.