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Conway pool group sure they can reach $87,000 goal

  • Jay Chase of Greenfield looks up at debris caught in trees when the water would have been way over his head after Tropical Storm Irene along the Deerfield River in Conway.

    Jay Chase of Greenfield looks up at debris caught in trees when the water would have been way over his head after Tropical Storm Irene along the Deerfield River in Conway.

  • Jay Chase of Greenfield looks up at debris caught in trees when the water would have been way over his head after Tropical Storm Irene along the Deerfield River in Conway.

CONWAY — Since February, a group of 15 volunteer fundraisers have relentlessly scoured the hilly terrain of Conway’s neighborhoods for donations to repair the town swimming hole.

And with four months to go until the July 1 construction start date, the volunteers have little doubt they can raise the remaining $87,000 of the total $563,000 project.

The Conway Swimming Pool Committee, a nonprofit group of volunteers that has run the man-made pond for 63 years, announced at Monday’s special town meeting it received $100,000 in private donations since launching its campaign on Feb. 13. On Monday, the town also gave the Selectboard the go-ahead to provide $235,000 from the M&M Germain Trust Fund for accessibility improvements at the pool.

The pool group plans to repair and open the swimming hole off Whately Road by the summer of 2014.

The community has been without the pool since fall 2010 when the committee discovered significant bypass and sinkhole issues with the earthen dam. The pool needs dam repairs, beach replenishing and dredging.

After spending almost a year on permit applications and designs, the Conway Swimming Pool Committee held its first public meeting on Feb. 5 to request fundraising help.

Tony Borton, a retired University of Massachusetts-Amherst professor, thought “it’ll take some work, but we can do it.”

The next day about 15 residents met in the Conway Grammar School to form the fundraising arm of the pool group with Borton as the lead.

The fundraising group spent weeks knocking on doors, soliciting donations and planning events, giving the pool committee the time to focus on submitting state permits.

During the first four weeks, the fundraisers tapped into the large donor pool — businesses like Orchard Equipment and individuals who could contribute big monetary gifts.

It launched a challenge asking people to give $1,0000

“We knew small donations wouldn’t be enough to get us over the top,” Borton said. “Because this is a one-time fundraising event and the pool cost is so high, we’ve asked people to give more than they normally would give.”

Then one former resident, who now lives in California and continues to visit the pool with her family, challenged Conway. If 10 people donated $1,000, she would match it. The woman, whose name the pool committee did not want to release due to privacy concerns, fulfilled her promise.

Conway residents, musicians, artists and writers then planned donation events.

One upcoming event is a jazz brunch on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. hosted by Gisele Litalien and Lisa Clark at 6 Rand Road, Shelburne Falls. On April 28, the Holly Barn will host a Sunday brunch with music. Details to be determined.

But what really has pushed the fundraisers over the $100,0000 mark is the passion the townspeople have for their summer swimming hole.

“The Conway Pool is very dear to the hearts of the residents of the town. People have really missed it,” Borton said. “The reason we’re so successful is people really enjoy the pool. It’s an important part of community life.”

While the last special town meeting only had 28 people attend, the meeting on Monday attracted 167 people.

“I’m amazed at the outpouring. It’s very gratifying,” said James Recore, president of the pool committee.

Borton has no doubt the pool fundraisers can collect the remaining $87,000 by July 1.

“I think the support for the pool and the community spirit is astounding. I’m sure we’ll make it,” Borton said.

To donate to the Conway Swimming Pool, visit conwayswimmingpool.org.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at:
kmckiernan@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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