Monday, May 26, 2014 || By Michael Romain
MAYWOOD — Lifeguards, pool attendants and West Cook YMCA staff were all poolside, but they weren’t relaxing. They were gearing up for the Fred Hampton Family Aquatic Center’s soft opening, which will take place today, from 12 PM to 7 PM, at 300 Fred Hampton Way. The pool’s 2014 summer season doesn’t officially start until June 8th and will end on August 17th.
Lifeguard and swim instructor Michael Palluzi, who also coaches a swimming team at the West Cook’s Oak Park location, said that he expects a much better turnout this time around. Last summer was plagued by mediocre weather.
“It’s supposed to be a hot summer,” said Palluzi, who’s going into his second year at Fred Hampton. “I think it’s going to be a lot warmer.”
Lifeguard and swimming instructor Teresa Hirmer, an Oak Park resident, is in her second season at the pool as well. She said that last year, about 100 kids showed up to the pool for swimming lessons.
“It’s a life skill that I think is needed,” Hirmer said. “It’s also great exercise.”
The West Cook YMCA’s new CEO and President, Phillip Jimenez, said that he’s excited to take part in the opening, which will be his first one since he officially took the helm of the organization about a week ago. He said the partnership between the Village of Maywood and the YMCA is much stronger this year than in years past.
“The commitment level on the part of the Village made this partnership a lot stronger,” he said.
The West Cook YMCA has managed the pool since 2011. Since taking it over, however, the operating costs had been rather high. To offset those costs, this year West Cook asked the Village to contribute half of the costs of maintenance, while also sharing half of whatever profits may materialize.
Much of the operating costs go to the employment of personnel, which includes seven life guards, front desk cashiers and slide attendants.
“The number of lifeguards is predicated on national policy, the radius of their vision and response time,” Jimenez said. “Historically, I think that’s what has made this economically challenging. We have to have bright staffing for this to work and the Village has made that possible for us.”
Mr. Jimenez said that, in the future, he hopes to see more Maywoodians employed as lifeguards, noting that the YMCA has already been in talks with Proviso East High School on various ways to make that happen next year. In the meantime, however, the pool has openings for at least one cashier and two slide attendants. And the YMCA is urging local residents to apply.
“We’re going to hire more Maywoodians to be part of this,” Jimenez said. “Right now, Maywoodians can help us as slide attendants and front cashiers. Those are at least three paid positions that are open. They’ll be trained and staffed by [West Cook YMCA Aquatic Director] Kim Polk, We’re hoping that we can work with Proviso East next season to get more local residents trained and staffed.”
As for this season, the YMCA is vigorously trying to get the word out about the pool. Mr. Jimenez said that the organization has stepped up its marketing.
There will be four banners within the proximity of the pool, instead of just one; YMCA officials will meet with churches throughout the community; lots of flyers will circulate; and the YMCA will be approaching local businesses with sponsorship opportunities.
“Our goal is to get 1,200 people to visit this pool between June 8th and August 17th,” Jimenez said. “That’s about 600 every month.”
Caniya Baker is one of those people. The Maywood resident brought her little cousin to the pool.
“I come every year, especially when I’m really hot,” she said, a signal, perhaps, that this summer may be much more friendly to the pool’s prospects.
“[Fred Hampton pool] is a prime example of how the YMCA wants to provide programming outside of its walls,” Jimenez said. For that happen, however, the residents will have to venture outside of theirs–like right now. Maywood, your pool is open for business. VFP
(Left to Right: West Cook YMCA President and CEO Phillip Jimenez and wife Beatriz Jimenez; West Cook YMCA Aquatic Director Kim Polk; Caniyah Baker sitting poolside; a lifeguard tower sits empty until the day starts. Photos by Michael Romain for The Village Free Press.)
For information on pool hours, fees, passes or employment opportunities, contact Kim Polk, the West Cook YMCA Aquatic Director, at (708) 434-0200, or email her at email@example.com. You can also visit the website here.