PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The Maine Winter Sports Center received a huge funding boost Thursday with the announcement of a $100,000 donation from an Aroostook County native and her offer of an additional $400,000 in matching funds.
The gift from Presque Isle native Mary Smith, who now lives in California, could generate up to $900,000 in funds, Andrew Shepard, president of Maine Winter Sports, said Thursday in a press conference at the Nordic Heritage Center, which is hosting the 2014 World Youth/Junior Biathlon Championships.
Three weeks ago, the Libra Foundation announced it would no longer fund the Maine Winter Sports Center after contributing more than $34 million over 15 years.
The Libra Foundation’s contribution of about $550,000 each year represents nearly two-thirds of the center’s $885,000 annual budget.
At the time, Shepard said to keep the center operational through the next fiscal year, he will have to raise more than half a million dollars to supplement existing private and corporate financial support.
And he needs to raise those funds by the start of the organization’s fiscal year on April 1.
“Since [the Libra Foundation’s announcement] we have been working to secure that new funding and committed to ensuring the programs continue,” he said.
In addition to operating two nordic ski venues in northern Maine — 10th Mountain Lodge in Fort Kent and the Nordic Heritage Center, the Maine Winter Sports Center runs ski and related programs for youth statewide through its Healthy Hometowns initiative.
“The Libra Foundation has been a remarkable partner for 15 years, [and] the legacy of that support can be seen in the world-class venues that continue to bring the world to Maine and in the world-class programs that are impacting thousands of kids and their families across the state,” Shepard said. “The time has come for Libra to focus on other initiatives around the state and for the [Maine Winter Sports Center] to define a new funding model for our programming. Mary’s remarkable gift is a major step in that direction.”
This is not Smith’s first gift to her hometown. In 2011, she gave $1.2 million to Northern Maine Community College for the Rodney Smith Wellness Center, named in honor of her late husband and pioneer in the semiconductor industry.
Shepard said Smith’s gift is a major factor in continuing the center’s operations.
“The steps are now in place to secure operations for next year,” he said. “While this is a critical first step, it is just that — a first step. Mary is hoping this gift will encourage the entire state of Maine to embrace the importance of what we do and to understand that our future success will depend on a lot of helping hands. We will need to secure the matching gifts in the next two months to get the job done.”
Maine Winter Sports Center officials did begin an online fundraising campaign two weeks ago and to date have raised $40,000, Shepard said.
Anyone interested in donating to the fundraising effort may do so by contacting Shepard at 232-3304 or online at www.mainewsc.org.