This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website.
WEST CHESTER — Summers in West Chester can provide delicious outdoor dining, live music at multiple venues, a great selection of shopping and soon a live performance theater.
The one thing it is missing for those “dog days” of summer is a community pool to cool off in.
That’s where the Charles A. Melton Arts and Education Center is attempting to step in.
Home to West Chester’s only outdoor pool, it hasn’t been open for the last 15 years, but a group of community members has been gathering together since March to push for its restoration.
“The pool is not just for the east end like it used to be,” said Cassandra Jones, former member of the Borough Council. “It’s for West Chester at large because we don’t have any open public pool. Now is the right time to do and there are people who want to help this campaign moving forward.”
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Once the dream became a reality, the group, which has become the Pool Together Campaign Committee, strived to raise the needed funds through a variety of ways and worked to get the news out using a social media campaign with #PoolTogether on Facebook (www.facebook.com/CharlesAMeltonCenter), Twitter (@MeltonCenterWC) and Instagram (meltoncenterwc).
“There has certainly been a lot of activity,” said Ken Winston. “I think the shares have been in the thousands (on Facebook), which is valuable.”
Since Winston became executive director at the Melton Center a few years ago, his last focus was on the pool sitting idle on the grounds.
“I wasn’t worried about the pool for five years — don’t even bring it up to me,” he said. “Sometimes the time is right and you know the time is right.”
The committee is made up of Winston; Jones; Kyle Hudson, of Let’s Build a Time Machine; Diane LeBold, of the West Chester Borough Council; Roger White, a community member and volunteer; Haille Romanaski, executive director of Act in Faith; and Carol Richardson, a community member and volunteer.
“We’re all from different walks of the community coming together,” Romanaski said. “We have a lot going on at the table at any given meeting.”
Not to mention the committee members also feel like they are a part of a big change in the borough.
“I’m just a piece of the puzzle,” White said. “I enjoy coming here because progress is being made.”
People can donate in a multitude of different ways for the restoration of the pool, whether through a check, a donation on the Generosity crowdsourcing page (www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/pooltogether-for-the-melton-center-community-pool) or stopping by one of the tables set up at different events around the borough.
Even the community has stepped up to help fundraise, including the swim and dive teams from West Chester Rustin and West Chester Henderson high schools and young people from Chester County Juvenile Probation, all of whom raised money through car washes, phonathons and bucket brigades.
“People are making donations and if you look online, you can see that if you donate $20, you’re getting something for the donation,” Winston said.
People who donate will receive things such as shirts, swimming caps, memberships to the pool, private pool parties and more — all depending on the amount donated.
“We’re going to be talking today about how we get information to the businesses and the churches,” Winston said.
The committee is hoping all the churches and business will spread the word about #PoolTogether and that, the businesses especially, will allow fundraising cans to be placed at the register area for people to donate change they may be carrying around.
Some businesses in the area have donated supplies, such as Sherwin-Williams, which gave paint for the team to create a fundraising goal sign to put outside of the Melton Center and D’Antonio Automotive donated supplies for the car wash.
Through these different events and fundraising campaigns, $10,000 has already been raised in two months, all of which — except for money needed to spend on the fundraising — goes directly into the pool fund.
The goal is to raise $50,000 by October to show the community that people do care about bringing a public pool back to the borough and to hopefully entice more donations to reach the eventual goal of $250,000, which is the estimated total needed to fully restore the pool.
“I believe in miracles, so I believe that once we get $50,000, we can go to other places and say, ‘Hey look, we’ve raised $50,000 on the ground, can you match?’” Winston said. “And then that can go viral – that changes things.”
The big picture is that the money can be raised by May 2017 and the pool can be opened that very summer for the community to enjoy.
It would also be just in time for the Centennial Anniversary of the Melton Center.
“When you stop and think about how Chester County is one of the wealthiest counties in Pennsylvania and in the country, we can’t get a community pool?” Richardson said. “Shame on us.”
The pool will be a great place for West Chester residents to gather together to cool down, for children to learn how to swim and can even help bridge gaps in the community.
“The community center has been so separated from the borough for so long that now it’s really time to really diminish that concept and let the community center be the true community center in West Chester,” Jones said. “Because of the outreach and efforts that Ken and the board have made over the last five years, the community center has a revitalized reputation for being viable and good and for the entire West Chester community.”
All of this couldn’t have come at a better time, as well, with all the turmoil that has been going on throughout the country.
“With all the bad things going on across this great country of ours, it’s nice to have this Pool Together and pull the community together and show that it’s not bad everywhere,” Richardson said.