By Mike Watkins//Correspondent
Long-time USA Swimming corporate partner Phillips 66 has been a sponsor since 1973 and involved in the sport overall for seven decades. Today, Phillips 66 believes they can improve lives through energy, and in that spirit, usaswimming.org is highlighting swimmers of all levels who have benefited from Phillips 66's contribution and chosen to give back to the sport of swimming or to their community.
The municipal pool in Ukiah, Calif., was every bit the second home for Francine Selim as a youngster.
She took swim lessons there and joined the Dolphins race team along with her brother, Doug. She learned all of the swim strokes there, particularly loving the breaststroke and freestyle and could be found in the water every chance she had.
But it was synchronized swimming that truly drew her interest and captivated her. It became the focus of her life during the summer, but she never stopped loving swimming in general.
So when the pool that she loved so much as a child needed some much-needed attention and repairs, she and Doug made a sizeable donation in honor of their parents, Frank and Maxine Crane, to the Community Foundation of Mendocino County to help return her home away from home back to its previous condition…and then some.
“Our parents were very involved in the community – especially supporting vocational work programs – so when I saw the state that the pool was in, I knew something needed to be done,” Francine said. “My brother and I wanted a way to give back to the community as dad had, so we made the contribution in his and mom’s names.”
The community-wide push to save the municipal pool – which provides the only public access to supervised aquatic activities for the 45,000 residents of Ukiah – began in October 2010. The pool also provides the only American Red Cross-certified swim lessons program as well as affordable activities for all ages, including aquatic fitness classes, open swimming, lap swimming and lessons.
After receiving a $500,000 grant from the California Department of Parks and Recreation, the community needed to raise approximately $280,000 to make the project happen. With a deadline of March 2011, the community came together and raised the necessary funds to restore the pool, which reopened earlier this year.
The Friends of Todd Grove Pool (where the municipal pool is located) came together to exceed their $72,000 fundraising goal for the required matching funds. Half of the money came from trusts and larger donations, but the other half was raised through small donations, special events and kids dropping coins in jars at special events throughout the community.
“We’re not a wealthy community by any means – our local economy took a hit when the timber and fishing industries slowed down for environmental reasons – but it was great to be able to do something to help restore the pool we enjoyed so much as children,” said Francine, who competed in synchronized swimming at the University of the Pacific and has two daughters who swam at the municipal pool.
“I’m on the community foundation board, so it was a no-brainer to support this project. The pool means a great deal here to everyone.”
Francine said pool upgrades included a resurfacing of the pool, which had become cracked and leaking water over the years since it was built in the 1950s, as well as an upgraded electrical system, among other things. Future projects include replacing the heating system and replacing the roof over the bleachers.
Although she hasn’t swum for years since having a large melanoma removed from her leg, daughter, Erin, continues to swim for a Masters club in San Diego, and husband, Ron, has been officiating swim meets for several decades.
An educator, Francine said she knows that kids who swim excel in the classroom as a result of the individualized, self-determination required by the sport – making the drive to restore the Ukiah pool that much more important to her and the community.
“It feels good to go back to the pool and see the great impact that our efforts and contributions made and will continue to make for future generations of swimmers,” Francine said. “This project also made me realize the importance and impact community foundations make. They are the future of our country, and to hear stories about what foundations have done is really amazing.”