Maine Philanthropy Center

Building Connections for Maine Grantmakers

Harold Alfond Foundation Commits $7.5 Million to Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

Monday, November 12, 2018

PORTLAND, MAINE — The Harold Alfond® Foundation today announced a grant commitment of $7.5 million to Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, the largest gift in the Gardens’ history. The gift is in support of Cultivating Joy, a $50 million initiative to expand the Gardens’ research capacity, to better accommodate the growing number of annual visitors to the Gardens, and to develop year-round programming, all of which will enhance the economic vibrancy of the region. The initial phase of Cultivating Joy was completed last summer, with improved vehicle access and a new visitor and administrative center.

The Harold Alfond® Foundation was established by the late Harold Alfond to continue his broad civic and philanthropic support of the people of Maine. “The Harold Alfond® Foundation is pleased to invest in the ongoing success of Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens,” says Harold Alfond® Foundation board chair Greg Powell. “Mr. Alfond would have loved seeing results of the foundation’s previous support, which helped to create the Bibby and Harold Alfond Children’s Garden where children and their families gather, learn, and play. We look forward to the many new and continuing opportunities the Gardens will provide the people of Maine.”

“This gift will be transformative for Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens,” says Tom Renyi, a Cultivating Joy co-chair. “Our mission is to inspire meaningful connections among people, plants and nature through horticulture, education and research. The Harold Alfond® Foundation understands that its support will allow us to implement our strategic plan and to achieve our goals of making beauty and joy accessible to every Maine resident; and of sharing with the rest of the world the wonders of this distinctively Maine place. We are extremely grateful.”

Further projects in the Cultivating Joy Initiative include a glass conservatory, expanded plant nursery, research center, expanded education campus, additional visitor amenities, and many new gardens. David Emery, chair of Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens’ board, explains, “When the Gardens opened a decade ago, the expectation was that we would have about 40,000 guests annually, and the facilities were designed to that scale. This year, we will likely surpass 200,000 visitors—coming from all over Maine, every U.S. state and 65 foreign countries. Cultivating Joy will allow us to welcome this many people – and more – comfortably, and just as crucially will make it possible for us to do more horticultural, botanical, and education work – and to do it better.”

Grant payments toward the $7.5 million grant commitment announced today will be paid as building, programmatic, and financial benchmarks are met, including the challenge of raising an additional $15 million from other philanthropy. Cultivating Joy is co-chaired by Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens board member Barbara Alfond, by Tom Renyi, former chief executive of the Bank of New York, and by John and Sarah Giles, who led the initial capital campaign for the Gardens. To date, pledges have been received for more than half of the initiative’s goals. The Gardens plans to use the match component of the Harold Alfond® Foundation gift in order to secure $10 million more in commitments by next spring so that construction may proceed with the glass conservatory, which Emery says will be “much more than a building—a place of community, of learning, and of delight.”

Notes Bill Cullina, President and CEO of Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, “Everything about this splendid gift from the Harold Alfond® Foundation is just right. With its generous match, it will encourage others to give; in its timing, it will draw attention to our seasonal lights display, Gardens Aglow. Astoundingly, between now and the end of the year we welcome as many visitors as we do all summer long, extending the season for Boothbay area merchants and offering families an enchanting holiday activity. In addition, it supports a key goal of the campaign which is to foster year-round regional employment opportunities.”