People walk into the Old Town-Orono YMCA on Stillwater Avenue. Credit: Andrew Catalina | Maine Public

The Piscataquis Regional YMCA is partnering with the Old Town-Orono facility to consolidate support and resources after months of revenue losses due to the coronavirus pandemic. The facilities will remain independent but share leadership and use similar models for programs and services.

“The past [eight] months have been an increasingly difficult time for our YMCA, as it has been for YMCAs across the nation,” Michael Sutton, PRYMCA board chairperson, said.

The Piscataquis Y is eliminating its chief executive officer position and will instead form a leadership team with Old Town-Orono to integrate the management of the two facilities.

Mandy Adams had served as CEO for the PRYMCA for about six months.

“The PRYMCA Board has decided to make some changes to help guide us through the challenges we will face in the upcoming years … We feel strongly that we are putting ourselves in the best position to navigate the uncertainty of these trying times,” he said.

Several operational directors at the Old Town-Orono YMCA will serve on the new leadership team, including Chief Executive Officer Debra Boyd, Childcare Director Andrew Walker, Director of Healthy Living Cody Levensalor and Senior Director of Programs Heather Fournier.

Boyd, Walker and Levensalor all previously worked at the PRYMCA before moving to Old Town-Orono.

“We can’t wait to get started,” Boyd said. “Both of these Ys are near and dear to our hearts and I am personally looking forward to reconnecting with all of our members. This will be a new and exciting adventure for all of us.”

PRYMCA has entered into a six-month contract with Old Town-Orono, Board Member Tim Gallagher said Thursday.

“It’s really a partnership,” he said, adding that the leadership team will assist the Piscataquis facility in expanding its fitness programming and COVID-19 safety protocols, as well as rebuilding its childcare offerings and generally helping to stabilize operations.

Such partnerships are very common among YMCAs, Gallagher said, especially as the coronavirus pandemic continues taking a toll on fitness centers around the country.

The PRYMCA was shut down for several weeks when the pandemic first began in Maine, significantly affecting revenue.

“The shutdown was difficult for all of us,” Gallagher said.

The majority of the facility’s profits typically come from memberships, program fees and charitable giving. But the facility was forced to cancel some of its fundraising events as the state cracked down on gatherings to limit the spread of COVID-19.

“All three of the ways we make revenue [are] down this year,” Gallagher said, especially as the facility elected not to charge members during the shutdown.

Although the PRYMCA has maintained most of its memberships throughout the pandemic, facility usage is much lower than what it was a year ago, he said.

Despite redesigning fitness classes and other changes to improve safety for members, getting people — especially those who are older — to come back into the facility after reopening has remained a challenge.

Boyd said that while the Old Town-Orono Y has also seen some revenue loss compounded by an increase in expenses — particularly to cover additional facility cleaning — the organization is entering in a partnership with the PRYMCA mainly to “be a good Y neighbor.”

After six months, a task force made up of community and board members will evaluate the partnership and decide whether to extend the contract. The PRYMCA has not decided if they will refill the CEO position in the future.

YMCAs are important to the communities they serve, Gallagher said. “We’re absolutely determined to persevere through COVID.”