ITHACA, N.Y. — As temperatures climb and social distancing measures stretch into a fourth month, one possible oasis for beleaguered caregivers and their restless charges: Alex Haley Pool in the City of Ithaca’s Northside will be opening after the city received $90,000 in donations from Purity Ice Cream and the Legacy Foundation of Tompkins County.
Jean McPheeters, on behalf of The Legacy Foundation, reached out to Mayor Svante Myrick to see what it would take to open the pool — which Myrick says was about $80,000. The Legacy Foundation was able to raise $10,000, while Purity Ice Cream, which was looking to give back to the community as well, kicked in $80,000, putting the fundraiser over the top.
“We all saw the city budget and the slashes to GIAC and thought ‘what could we do to help?’” said McPheeters. “We (the Legacy Foundation) suspended our normal grant applications and have been going through the hierarchy of needs.”
The foundation has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to food banks and community organizations throughout the pandemic.
“Children are important and we need to take care of the children,” added McPheeters. “I can’t even express the joy I’m feeling.”
The money will go toward the cost of staffing for the pool, which will require 10 lifeguards. The city says they hope to have the pool open as early as the end of next week.
“Heather and I live here and our business is nothing without the Ithaca community participating,” Bruce Lane, owner of Purity Ice Cream told the Voice that, like Purity, public pools like Alex Haley Pool give local youth their first jobs, opportunities that are important for young people. “That, combined with walking by a pool that should be open and happy,” added Lane. “Sometimes it’s important to step up.”
The donations mean some much needed good news for Mayor Myrick, who has long advocated for increased spending on youth services.
“Of all the things that have been keeping me up at night, and there are a lot — budget problems, creating a new form of public safety, race relations — the thing I’ve worried about the most has been our young people,” Myrick told the Voice on Wednesday afternoon. “How to keep them engaged this summer and how to make sure that they develop into healthy, functioning adults.”
The donations came before the United Way’s fundraiser really got a chance to get up to speed, but that doesn’t mean work is done. According to Myrick, attentions will now turn to reopening the pool at Cass Park, which will require about $200,000 to hire 22 lifeguards. The three-term mayor says he is thankful that people in the community with the means to help have answered that call.
“Obviously, I’ve chosen to work in government because I believe in government. But this was a reminder, this outpouring of generosity and support, has made it clear that if we are going to have a resilient community, it’s because the private sector will also step up too,” said Myrick. “There’s definitely a feeling in this city of responsibility. The people who are capable of contributing have really leaned into it and I’m just eternally grateful.”
Watch Mayor Svante Myrick’s full announcement below:
Anna Lamb Contributed to this report