Bangor Region YMCA CEO Diane Dickerson speaks to members of the media inside the YMCA, Feb. 14, 2022. The YMCA unveiled a new food pantry in partnership with Hannaford Supermarkets. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / B

The Bangor Region YMCA will receive $5 million of city and county COVID-19 relief money to fund its new facility, which will allow the nonprofit to expand programming for area residents of all ages.

Earlier this month, Penobscot County Commissioners announced it would fund $3 million of the nonprofit’s original $5 million request. The Bangor City Council decided to supplement the remaining $2 million during a council workshop on Monday.

The $5 million will support the YMCA’s plan to build a larger facility in Bangor, which will allow the organization to provide new and expanded programs and services, including child care and health and wellness programs, Bangor Region YMCA CEO Diane Dickerson said.  

The YMCA plans to offer infant care for the first time while also tripling its preschool program capacity and doubling its before- and after-school programs.

The organization’s child care program accepts children as young as 18 months old, but plans to offer care for infants six weeks and older in the new facility, Dickerson said. This would allow parents to return to the workforce sooner after giving birth.

“Lack of accessible child care in the community for needy families is huge,” Councilor Dina Yacoubagha said. “Some working mothers don’t have a choice — they stay home because they can’t afford child care or it’s not available at all.”

The new facility will also raise the nonprofit’s early childhood care capacity from 55 to up to 150 children and increase its school-age children program capacity from 100 to up to 250 children, Dickerson said.

“Right now, within the first year we’re going to more than triple our membership capabilities to serve more people and our teen center will double in size,” Dickerson said.

Other programs that may be expanded include family activities, evidence-based chronic disease programs, health, wellness and aquatics programs for all ages and the YMCA’s teen center aimed at preventing substance use and suicide.

“The YMCA is so much more than a gym,” Councilor Gretchen Schaefer said. “What we’re supporting is investing in a community center.”

The nonprofit bought five properties on Davis Court and First Street, off Main Street last August and September where it plans to build its new building.

The organization’s current campus is on Second Street, which was the location of the Bangor YWCA before that organization merged with the YMCA in 2008. The property houses the YMCA’s two pools, fitness center and studios, child care program and teen center.

Councilor Joe Leonard said the YMCA’s new building will help expand Bangor’s downtown and bring more business and foot traffic to downtown businesses.

The council’s $2 million award to the YMCA comes one month after they dispensed the first four awards of the $20.5 million Bangor received — and has struggled to spend — through the American Rescue Plan Act Congress passed in 2021.

The money from the city’s previous awards totaled $1.7 million and went to the Bangor Public Library, Fresh Start Sober Living, Penquis and the Maine Discovery Museum, all of which received additional funding from Penobscot County.

The money must be spent on replacing lost public sector revenue, paying essential workers, investing in infrastructure like water, sewer and broadband internet, and helping local businesses, households and communities recover from the pandemic’s public health and economic setbacks, according to U.S. Treasury rules. Money must be earmarked by 2024 and spent by 2027.

Bangor councilors said they may allocate more COVID-19 relief money to the YMCA in the future.

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Kathleen O'Brien

Kathleen O'Brien is a reporter covering the Bangor area. Born and raised in Portland, she joined the Bangor Daily News in 2022 after working as a Bath-area reporter at The Times Record. She graduated from...