“It’s just such a good cause. Our society doesn’t exercise enough, and to have a place that encourages exercise is great.”
—Bob Johnson, American Legion Post 62 member, on donating money to the post’s swimming pool
Mel Shockley said he doesn’t want to close the swimming pool at American Legion Post 62 in Craig, but financial circumstances are forcing his hand.
“I’ve gotten used to all the smiling faces,” the post commander said of local residents who use the pool.
Barring an unforeseen influx of revenue, the American Legion will close the pool March 1 as a cost-cutting measure. The pool could remain closed indefinitely.
The cost of maintaining the swimming pool — which serves community members during year-round programs like open swimming sessions, Senior Swimnastics and more¬ — has overrun the post’s budget, Shockley said.
“The Legion’s finances are in good shape,” he said. “But, they won’t be if we keep running this pool.”
Shockley estimates the American Legion loses $10,000 a year operating the swimming pool. In January, he began seeking contributions from the community to keep it open.
Shockley set a $15,000 goal in contributions, and thus far, the American Legion has received pledges and donations totaling $1,960.
Most of the donations have been from individuals, which Shockley said was surprising.
“I sent out letters to the coal companies and the power plant asking for help,” he said. “You know what I got?”
Shockley, answering his own question, put his hands together in the shape of a zero.
“It makes me sad,” he said.
American Legion member Bob Johnson said he pledged $250 to keep the pool open.
“It’s just such a good cause,” Johnson said. “Our society doesn’t exercise enough, and to have a place that encourages exercise is great.”
Johnson said it’s not too late for area businesses to donate.
“I would like to see some of the big businesses in town do their best,” he said. “I know it’s been tough times. I think things are getting a little easier now.”
In January, Shockley said he planned to drain the pool, sell the equipment, and have it filled in if funds were not raised.
After a recent board meeting, however, the American Legion has opted to simply drain the water and leave the pool and its equipment standing.
Shockley said a grant writer is currently trying to raise money.
The bulk of any money raised would go toward paying off outstanding debt the American Legion incurred from last year’s purchase of the post building.
If, however, the grant writer can secure additional funds for the pool, it will be reopened, Shockely said.
“Let’s wait and see what happens,” he said. “If it sits here empty for six months, it sits here empty for six months. But, if we get the money to open it up, we will.”
Ben McCanna can be reached at 875-1793 or firstname.lastname@example.org.