November 10, 2021
In 2008, the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine combined forces and began their search for a new place to call home. Nearly 9 years later, in 2017, they purchased land on Thompson's Point in Portland and broke ground on the building in the fall of 2019.
Then, a worldwide pandemic hit in early 2020 that threatened their business model and left them uncertain of what the future would bring.
“At the time, we were still operating our business on Free Street while construction was going on. We thought the shutdown would only last a few weeks. But we never reopened there,” said Julie Butcher Pezzino, Executive Director at the museum.
While construction efforts were able to continue through the height of the pandemic, Julie said their operating budget suffered tremendously. Their business model, she explained, depends on children and families being able to visit and interact, and by taking that out of the equation, it left them feeling helpless.
“We managed to retain a good number of our staff members during the pandemic, and it’s their dedication that really made this building a reality,” she said. “This pandemic has taught me you’re really nothing without the people that make up your organization. Our contributors, too, we wouldn’t be here without them.”
In June, the museum was able to open its doors to the public, and for Julie, there’s nothing more special than being able to witness the joy each child experiences as they experience the facility.
“The most poignant thing we bring to the community is joy. We were void of joy for so long and being able to open those doors and see people in the building happily playing and learning… it’s so special.”
As business continues forward, Julie said, the Children’s Museum & Theatre hopes to be a critical connection point in supporting the happiness and wellbeing of children: A place where they gain not only educational benefits, but the mental benefit of learning to be resilient in the face of adversity.
“We want to give children all the opportunities and experiences that we’ve had and more, so that we’re raising the next generation of joyful, successful individuals to take us forward into the next several decades,” she said. “It’s a critical coming together of all those different factions around kids and their wellbeing. And we’re so happy to be an integral part of that process.”
Congratulations to the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine on being selected as one of the winners of our Heartbeat of the Community Award!