PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Members of the Presque Isle Rotary Club and the Presque Isle Snowmobile Club are crediting the generosity of the Aroostook County community, as well as supporters from as far away as Alaska and Florida, for helping the two organizations in their collaborative effort to help rebuild the clubhouse after a devastating fire.
The recent Presque Isle Rotary Club 62nd annual Radio and TV Auction generated enough money to push the club closer to its goal of ensuring a new building would be finished in time for the coming snowmobile season.
On Jan. 25, an early afternoon fire of undetermined origin destroyed the quarter-century-old clubhouse off State Park Road. Nobody was in the building at the time of the fire.
The building housed an active nonprofit organization and served the region in many ways, from long volunteer hours grooming trails vital to The County’s lucrative snowmobile industry to sponsoring an annual sled ride for mentally challenged youths and adults. The setting for weddings and receptions, holiday parties, family gatherings, community suppers, fundraisers, class reunions and more went up in flames.
Surrounded by the ruins, club members gathered last winter to review their insurance policy. It was then they realized insurance would cover only about 70 percent of what was lost.
But the club pressed on. Volunteers rallied to rebuild the clubhouse, and approximately $11,000 worth of material was purchased and stored in a locked building near the old facility.
In early spring, someone broke into the building and walked away with windows, caulking supplies and other materials. The theft remains under investigation, and the perpetrator has not been caught.
That loss was covered by insurance.
To help offset a $100,000 shortfall, however, members of the snowmobile club told their story to the Rotary Club. They asked whether the organization would consider joining forces with the club by taking on the rebuilding of the snowmobile clubhouse as its 2009 special project.
The Rotarians agreed. The goal was set to raise $25,000.
The effort at the auction was successful and money continues to pour in, Jason Parent, a Rotarian who helped lead the effort to bring in money for the club, said earlier this week.
“We were so pleased at the response we received. Taking on a project of this nature at such a tenuous economic time was a concern of ours, but in true Aroostook County fashion, we felt strongly that people would respond favorably, and they did,” said Parent.
Parent said the Rotarians were “very impressed with the number of individuals from outside our immediate area who sent in contributions.”
“The combination of our mailing effort, which included downstate and out-of-state snowmobilers who have registered their sleds in Presque Isle coupled with the fact that the auction aired statewide really helped us bring dollars from outside the area to the cause,” he said.
In addition to contributions received from most Rotary Clubs in northern Maine, the Presque Isle club recently received a call from a Rotarian belonging to the Rockland club who saw the auction downstate and is working on his club to give to the project.
The new $325,000 snowmobile clubhouse facility is a log cabin and will resemble the one that was lost to fire earlier this year. It is being constructed on the same footprint as the previous facility. New amenities include a separate entryway connected to the building, handicapped-accessible restroom facilities, a larger kitchen and slightly larger capacity by using the former area set aside for a barbecue pit on the back side of the old facility, which has now become part of the new building’s square footage.
The building itself is a kit from Houlton-based Ward Log Homes. Central Aroostook County contractor PNM Construction was hired to do most of the building work, and snowmobile clubhouse volunteers are donating their time to complete the work.
Some interior finish work is still left to be done on the club before it is fully functional, but officials hope they will be able to open the doors next month.
Donations to support the rebuilding effort can be sent to the Presque Isle Rotary Club, Attention “Special Project,” P.O. Box 641, Presque Isle 04769.