In 2018, the Waldo Board of Directors launched a three-phase capital campaign to save the historic movie house that stands at the center of the town of Waldoboro and was built during the Great Depression with the help of local families. Shuttered since 2014, The Waldo required extensive water damage repair, major renovations, and upgrades to lighting and technology. The goal was to raise $700,000 by 2020 in order to complete work and reopen as an operational performance space.

Dozens of volunteers set to work on the building, and the Board began fundraising. By January 2020, an impressive $300,000 had been raised toward the campaign goal, thanks to significant gifts from foundations and support from individuals. Despite the funding gap, and some budget overruns on exterior drainage repairs, the Board and new Executive Director Kate Fletcher wanted to stick to the original timeline to open in 2020. It was important to keep faith with funders and to allow for fundraising from new audiences with the theatre in operation. Fletcher and the Board secured a $200,000 construction line of credit early in the year from First National Bank in order to continue work on the building, leaving $200,000 remaining to meet the campaign budget.

In February, an anonymous donor came forward with a matching challenge grant. Understanding the need for $200,000 to complete Phase III, the donor offered to make a $43,000 gift to The Waldo building project if the Midcoast community helped raise the balance of $157,000 by Dec. 31, 2020. Since the challenge began, The Waldo has raised nearly $140,000 toward that goal.

This month is the final stretch. The Waldo is asking for the community’s help to raise the remaining $17,000 to meet the challenge by the end of the year. Under the CARES Act, there is now no limit to the deductions you can take for charitable contributions if you itemize your contributions.

“Every donation counts! If we receive $5, $20 or $100, every dollar counts towards receiving the $43,000,” said Board President Keri Lupien. “If you’ve been thinking about making a gift to help The Waldo, now is your moment. Your gift will be matched when we reach the challenge goal, and you’ll have played a key role in helping us reopen the theatre’s doors when we’re able to gather again.”

In November The Waldo reopened (virtually) with the launch of a new three-camera live-stream system, and presented two live concerts attended in real-time by nearly 400 people from Maine and 25 other states. “We are now able to reach our geographically local community along with Waldo family and friends who want to support us from afar,” said Fletcher. “Our new, more virtual world — born of necessity during the pandemic — enables us to connect with more people now than we would have thought possible this time last year."

Since the start of the capital campaign, the Midcoast has embraced The Waldo renovations as a symbol of hope. Throughout the pandemic, as people turned to the arts for virtual inspiration, progress on the theatre has provided a beacon. The promise of The Waldo’s reopening and the arts and community it will bring together represents a bright future ahead.

To make a donation in support of The Waldo’s grant challenge, or to learn more about future programming plans, visit Checks payable to The Waldo can be mailed to P.O. Box 587, Waldoboro, Maine 04572.