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YWCA dives into fundraising to save pool

<p>HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald</p><p>Lindsey Lee practices her freestyle stroke on the wall during the Novice Swim Team session at the YWCA of Hawaii Island on Thursday afternoon. The team meets every Tuesday and Thursday from 4:30-6</p><p>HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald</p><p>From left, Laurel Fongblatt, Pheboe Wyatt and Taylor Bugado practice their freestyle stroke on the wall during the Novice Swim Team session at the YWCA of Hawaii Island on Thursday afternoon. The team meets every Tuesday and Thursday from 4:30-6 p.m.</p>

By HUNTER BISHOP

Tribune-Herald staff writer

An anonymous donor is brightening the holidays at the Hilo YWCA.

A local resident who’s “passionate about keeping the pool open” has donated $30,000 to the facility to help keep the solar-heated, salt water swimming pool open through 2013, said Lorraine Davis, the YWCA’s interim CEO.

There’s just one catch. The donation came with a challenge to the YWCA to raise $30,000 on its own to match the anonymous donation. So Davis and her staff are rolling up their sleeves and getting to work.

A couple of fundraisers have been held since the effort began in earnest in mid-October, and the YWCA is already half way toward meeting its part of the fundraising bargain. A letter campaign to the isle medical community was also effective, but there’s still $15,000 to go before the end of 2012, the donor’s deadline.

The YWCA has now launched its “Holiday Challenge” fundraising campaign to reach the YWCA’s goal.

Without needed repairs and improvements, closing the 32-year-old pool would be “pretty imminent,” Davis said. “We’ve been running a deficit for several years.”

The electric-powered pumps that circulate the water are consuming enormous amounts of electricity and need to be replaced with a photovoltaic system to reduce costs, she said. The pool also has a leak and other problems that need to be fixed.

Funding alternatives are to raise the fees for pool users, and “we could always use more swimmers,” said Davis, but at the going rate, the pool will have to close next year without an infusion of cash for the renovations.

Up to 200 people a day use the pool on a regular basis for aerobics and lap swimming six days a week. Local schools also use the 155,000-gallon pool, located on Ululani Street just north of Haili. The YWCA’s pre-school students and competitive swim team use the pool for recreation, exercise and swimming practice, and it is available to rent for parties and events on Sundays and evenings.

Meanwhile, Clayton Honma, deputy director of the County Department of Parks and Recreation, is exploring the possibility of the county stepping in to help operate the pool after being approached by a board member of the YWCA.

“Many kids have learned to swim at that pool over the years, including my own kids,” he said. “Maybe an option could be having an MOU (memorandum of understanding) for the county to provide for the operating costs.”

Looking ahead, Honma said the YWCA pool could help the county by providing an alternative to the NAS pool by the old airport in Hilo if that needed to be closed for renovations.

Donations may be sent to the YWCA at 145 Ululani St., Hilo 96720, or may be made online at www.ywcahawaiiisland.org.

Email Hunter Bishop at hbishop@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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