NEW HAVEN — The New Haven Municipal Pool has had a successful summer, despite budget cuts, thanks to a longtime volunteer pool manager and a new mayor who is unafraid of a lot of legwork.
Mayor Charles Yonker said it became apparent earlier in the year that the pool and adjoining community building were going to lose county funding. He said at that time, even though he was not yet in office, he decided the pool was not going to close.
The mayor attended meetings of various organizations, and visited businesses and individuals, asking for assistance to keep the pool open. As a result, a group of 15 donated a total of $6,200, enabling the pool to open, operate, and have a little carryover for next year.
One of the reasons the pool can operate on funds in that amount is due to its manager. Bernita Allen has volunteered her time and services to run not only the pool, but also the community center and roller skating rink, for over six years.
Allen schedules the pool’s six lifeguards, which is a challenge in itself when dealing with high school and college teens who have vacations, summer camps, and sports practices. She makes sure the water quality is checked and recorded three times daily, and schedules private pool parties for the evenings.
Allen speaks highly of her lifeguards, including college students Elijah Honaker, who has worked at the pool for the past five years, and Kelsey Zuspan, who has been there four years. Four high school students round out the lifeguard team, including Nolan Pierce, Bekah Groves, Alex Whaley, and Noah Davis.
When asked why he was so insistent that the pool remain open, Mayor Yonker told a unique reflection of his own time as a college student at Marshall. He said his mother, the late Doris Yonker, called him and said she was going to take swimming lessons at the New Haven pool from Mary Jane Tennant. His mom was in her forties at the time.
“I came home from college on Friday, and there was my mom, standing with five, six, and seven-year-olds, kicking, and learning strokes and breathing techniques,” Yonker said. “Since then, I have had a soft spot for the pool and everything about it.”
Remembering swimming there himself as a boy, the mayor added the pool remains extremely important because it is one of the few venues in town that provides recreation for the kids.
Contributing to the pool’s operating expenses were the St. Paul Lutheran Church, New Haven United Methodist Church, American Electric Power, Mark Porter Motors, Wahama High School Hall of Fame, Bend Area C.A.R.E., Thompson’s Home and Hardware, Riverside Golf Club, Smith-Capehart American Legion Post 140, Stewart-Johnson V.F.W. Post 9926, New Haven Road Angels, Health Aid Pharmacy, Farmers Bank, Dr. James Lockhart, and Mayor Yonker.
There is still time to enjoy the pool before it closes for the season on August 2. Until then, it is open daily, Monday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m., and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. For private party information, call 304-882-3651.