News

Adventist Community Services Takes Over Management of Local Pool

By Taashi Rowe
Photos courtesy of Montgomery County Recreation Department and City of Takoma Park Communications Office

When parents and neighbors of the Piney Branch Elementary School (PBES) in Takoma Park, Md., heard that Montgomery County planned to close the school’s pool, they lobbied the county council. PBES is the only school in Montgomery County with its own indoor, Olympic-size, swimming pool. Several years ago the county transferred the pool’s operations to the YMCA, but in 2007 the group decided not to renew the contract. Unable to find another group willing to take on the task, county officials made plans to drain the pool.

During the first week of January the school held a grand re-opening with local politicians, parents, neighbors, students, and Ron Wylie, director of Adventist Community Services (ACS) of Greater Washington. ACS, supported by six Potomac Conference churches in the Maryland, has agreed to manage the pool.

“I thank the community for their faith and confidence in us,” Wylie says. “I know people think that community services is just about food and clothes, but we do a lot in the community, and plan to do more.”

“I think this has already been a tremendous opportunity to witness. Working with the community to get the pool re-opened has given us access to networks of people that we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise,” he adds. One opportunity came fairly early in the process when Wylie made it clear that they would not operate the pool during Sabbath hours.

“The pool is a valuable community resource,” says Terry Seamens, a councilmember for the City of Takoma Park who worked with the citizens, the county, and ACS to re-open the pool. “Elementary school children learn
to swim at the pool, older kids compete in swim meets, and public sessions provide many opportunities for all community members. Most importantly, the pool provides a place for neighborhood youth to have fun in a supervised environment.”

So how did an organization known for providing food and clothing for the area’s neediest citizens get involved in the process?

“When Terry started the ad hoc community group they asked us to work with the county council,” explains Wylie, a trained lawyer. “I suggested a public-private partnership with the Montgomery County Council, the City of Takoma Park, and the county’s board of education.” Through that partnership, the county has given ACS a $207,000 grant to manage the pool. In turn ACS will subcontract with a pool management company that will provide personnel and maintenance.

“It was a natural fit for ACS to manage the pool since they strive to help community members meet basic needs,” says Seamens. “There are few things more basic to a healthy community than positive activities for families and youth.”

“I prayed a lot about us taking this on,” recalls Wylie. “I think the Lord opened a way and I’m just very pleased. Others have mentioned that this was a great model of public-private partnership.”

The ACS coalition includes the Sligo, Takoma Park, Silver Spring, Beltsville, Burnt Mills, and Hyattsville churches.

The recently renovated pool is open during the school year, September through June. For more information on the pool’s schedule and fees, visit acsgw.org