The Waldo Theatre, which has been closed since 2014 and under renovations and with new board leadership for the past three years, needed to raise $200,000 to complete its $700,000 “Open the Doors” capital campaign and reopen its doors. In February of 2020, an anonymous donor came forward and offered a challenging proposition: if The Waldo could raise $157,000 from community support, the donor would contribute the remaining $43,000. As of the Dec. 31 grant challenge deadline, The Waldo had not only met the required amount, but had in fact exceeded the goal, raising over $182,000 with which to complete renovations.
“We were getting so close, but by December I wasn’t sure if we would receive the gifts needed to get us across the finish line,” recalls Waldo Executive Director Kate Fletcher. “As Dec. 31 approached, I left the post office with an envelope that had just arrived and sat in my car to open it. Inside was a check for an amount that would ensure we could meet the challenge as soon as additional pledges arrived. I was amazed, and once again grateful for the love our community has for The Waldo.”
This generous gift was made by John and Susan Morris of Waldoboro. Both are longtime friends of the Theatre, and John also served as president of a previous Waldo Board and was the architect of the Theatre’s 1990s addition to the building, including the current greenroom and dressing rooms. The Morris’ had made earlier gifts to the campaign, including a gift to restore the building’s mighty columns.
With over 300 gifts, large and small, the community came forward to support the theater, which holds pride of place in the center of the town of Waldoboro. That community extends throughout Lincoln County and into Knox County, with donations also coming from Midcoast seasonal residents, sending gifts from across the country.
The Waldo’s founder, Carroll Trowbridge Cooney, has a large, extended family in the Midcoast and around the U.S. Many Cooney family members made gifts to support the renovations and reopening of this landmark performing arts center, including major gifts from H. Paul Gardner and Judith Cooney Gardner, Suzanne and Ron Phillips, and the Family of Ann Hemingway Symington.
Other major donors, like Charlotte Davenhill and Michael Laing, who had made an earlier campaign gift to support projection technology, renewed their support in recent months to help with the grant challenge. The Maine Community Foundation’s Lincoln County Fund assisted with two grants, one for $10,000 to assist with the installation of projection and audio technology, and a second grant from its Theater Fund to provide for stage curtains. Maine Preservation and the 1772 Foundation made a grant to assess the building’s exterior masonry work.
Residents of the Town of Waldoboro voted to approve a $5,000 community service warrant article to help the Theatre. Town Manager Julie Keizer shared “The Waldo will help redefine and reinvigorate our downtown! We all look forward to being able to gather and celebrate together the arts and music that will once again fill the Waldo and our hearts!”
In recent months, volunteers have continued to safely work on the building, replacing acoustic panels and fabrics, replacing old upholstery on theater seats, and installing stage lighting in time to launch a new three-camera live-streaming system.
“We are eternally grateful to everyone who has helped us to reach our goal, through volunteering, donations to the campaign, purchasing tickets to events, and to all those who helped meet this extraordinary challenge in the middle of a pandemic,” says Board President, Keri Lupien, “We’re working on a creative way to commemorate ALL those who are making the new Waldo possible.”
With newly raised funds, Fletcher and the Waldo Board are setting goals and priorities for the next phase of renovations in anticipation of being open to the public later this year. Items on the list include carpet installation, insulation of the attic to help with energy efficiency, updates to public restrooms and the theater’s “Gallery” event and concessions space. They are also prioritizing a number of projects on the building’s exterior. Fletcher added “While our focus this past year has been on operational readiness, these campaign gifts are allowing us to expand our list to update and restore some of The Waldo’s beloved character details.”
Virtual programming continues this spring, with safety protocols in place for artists, technical staff, and volunteers. As soon as it’s safe to do so, The Waldo will be open to audiences with offerings including live theatre and music, films, dance, and community events, and the launch of a new membership program.
To follow The Waldo’s progress, learn about upcoming events, or to make a donation, visit waldotheatre.org.
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