February 2017, MILBRIDGE, ME — 2016 was a banner year for the Gateway:Milbridge volunteer initiative to bring the Milbridge Theatre back to life, as an arts resource not only for Milbridge, but all of western Washington County and beyond.
As Gateway treasurer Richard Bondurant recently described the larger picture for those who’ve buoyed the project, it’s not just about one building.
“Thanks to your support over the past year,” he said, “we made tremendous headway in helping to revitalize downtown Milbridge, while reinvigorating our community’s spirit and civic pride.”
Last year, Gateway purchased the theater property, and began plans for removing the existing deteriorated structure, rebuilding, and reopening it as a full service movie house, live performance space and community arts center.
In addition, the organization installed 20 permanent flower planters along Main Street, helped create a new visitors’ welcome center at the Schooner Gallery, organized and hosted a live show and paddle art auction emceed by humorist Tim Sample, and brought the BikeMaine event with its 400+ riders to Milbridge in September. In cooperation with other area organizations, Gateway was a co-host of Christmas on Main Street in early December, and installed a 14-foot community Christmas tree in front of the theater, aglow with lights and serving as a Memory Tree honoring loved ones. The public response to the day-long celebration, which also included a parade, caroling, and holiday vendors, was so enthusiastic that the plan is to make it an annual family holiday event.
As for the theater itself, Bondurant said: “We receive stories all the time from people sharing their cherished memories of it, and their enjoyment of the vibrant community we have had.” Among the comments Gateway has received from supporters of the project:
“I met my wife at the Milbridge Theatre 25 years ago. For that reason alone it means a lot to me. Thank you for working to save it.”
“When I was young, Milbridge was a beautiful place to live, with a strong sense of community and pride. I am glad to see the new flower planters and events coming back to town. Things are picking up, and it’s nice to see your organization playing such a big part of it all. ”
“I have wonderful memories of the theater. As kids, we always spent our weekends there. It was the fabric of our community and a special part of our childhood. I want my children to be able to go there, be safe, and have fun like we did. I am happy to support this project.”
As of December 31 last year, Gateway had raised over $71,000 from more than 130 donors, businesses, grants, and creative fundraising activities. By January 30, the figure had risen to $75,000. The 2016 Year-End Fundraising Campaign accounted for $20,000 of that total, to help achieve 2017’s ambitious goals. These include:
- Paying off the remainder of the purchase price, a goal currently in sight;
- Removing the existing theater;
- Creating a temporary park and outdoor event space on the site
- Completing rebuilding plans and continuation of fund-raising;;
- Hosting more live community events in town (music, comedy and movies);
- Maintaining and enhancing the permanent flower planters on Main Street;
- Strengthening the annual summer Milbridge Days celebration;
- Installing additional community banners and flags through town;
- Sponsoring clean-up and maintenance of vacant lots downtown;
- Co-hosting the Christmas on Main Street celebration as an annual event.
Bondurant gave an overview of how the organization uses the money it raises. (A detailed breakdown for 2016 is given in the sidebar to this story.)
“Nearly 100% of every dollar raised by Gateway:Milbridge goes directly to the purchase, planning and related costs for a new Milbridge Theatre and Community Arts Center,” he said. Board members and volunteers donate their time without compensation.
“While we have several projects going on as part of an overall downtown revitalization effort, the events we sponsor for our community are self-funded, without using any financial donations made to Gateway:Milbridge for the theater project.”
For instance, he added, “events like Milbridge Days, the BikeMaine event, Christmas on Main Street, and the Community Memory Christmas Tree Lighting, have been funded through activities we do at the events themselves: sales of baked goods and tee shirts, 50/50 raffles, and so forth.” The flower planters, too, are made possible by individuals making special donations for them.
Bondurant added: “Residents and businesses have been amazing about donating items and services (like the Christmas tree in front of the theater, the 2000 lights on the tree, materials used to build our portable booth), to help with our events. In fact, we have generated a solid net profit at every event we’ve hosted—and those profits go directly into the fund for the theater.”
Gateway:Milbridge operates as a non-profit with Federal 501(c)3 status. Donations are tax-deductible, and receipts are given to donors.
For information about how to volunteer, or donate to the theater’s revival and rebuilding, go to the Gateway website, https://gatewaymilbridge.com, or call the office at 207-546-1823. Progress reports and other news are posted regularly on FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/MilbridgeTheatre/
Expense Allocation of the $71,000 in Funds Raised in 2016 by Gateway: Milbridge:
- Postage/Postal Box 1%
- Utilities (existing theater building) 1%
- Supplies (paper, ink, printing) 1%
- Government Filings 1.3%
- Taxes 1.7%
- Third party credit card/donation processing fees 3%
- Architectural Concept Surveys, Designs and Drawings 4.1%
(Special individual donation earmarked by donor for this purpose)
- Insurance 4.3%
- Business Plan Development Fees 14.2%
(Special grant from the Maine Community Foundation earmarked for the development of a professional business plan)
- Funds Used in Purchase of the Theater/Land 32%
- Cash on Hand for Operational Expenses 3.4%
- Funds in Reserve for Completion of Theater Purchase Installments 33%