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Group rallies to reopen pools, rec centers

| Wednesday, April 28, 2004, 12:00 p.m.

A Pittsburgh charitable group says it has enough money to keep about half the city's pools and a third of its recreation centers open this summer.

Save Our Summer has secured about $800,000 of the $850,000 it will cost to run 13 pools and seven centers through the summer, said Jane Shorall, vice president of communications for the Pittsburgh Foundation, which is administering the fund. Another three pools will be operated with money from the Regional Asset District tax.

Organizers will open the fund drive to the public today, and Shorall said she is confident the remaining $50,000 will pour in, given how well the campaign has gone so far.

"It's just been unbelievable," she said. "I can't tell you how heartening it's been."

Squirrel Hill philanthropist Elsie Hillman, Pittsburgh Foundation chief executive William Trueheart and City Councilman Sala Udin organized the SOS group to provide summer activities for the 13,000 city children who use the facilities.

All 19 recreation centers and 27 of the city's 33 pools closed last August when the mayor announced budget cuts. There is no money in the 2004 city budget for the pools and centers. The SOS efforts could reopen the pools in mid-June.

During its public meeting tonight, the Act 47 recovery team studying city finances will discuss how many of those pools and recreation centers should be part of the city's budget in future years, said Jim Roberts, recovery team coordinator and a lawyer with Downtown law firm Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott.

The seven centers are being opened in part to provide nutritious lunches to children who usually count on their schools lunch programs, said F. Michael Langley, chief executive of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

Meals for about 650 children are paid for with matching dollars from the federal government, but "they have to have somewhere to spend it," Langley said.

Support so far has come evenly from corporations and foundations, Langley said.

"In a city that's had a lot of bad news lately, this is a good story," Shorall said.

Information on how to donate is available at www.saveoursummer.com or by calling (412) 391-5122.

Save Our Summer campaign

The Save Our Summer campaign is nearing its goal of raising $850,000 to operate:

  • The following pools: Ammon, Bloomfield, Cowley, Homewood, Moore, East Hills, Magee, McBride, Ormsby, Phillips, Sheraden, Sue Murray and Westwood.

  • Recreation centers in Bloomfield, Brookline, North Side, Oakland, Polish Hill, South Side and the South Side Slopes.

    The Highland, Riverview and Schenley park pools are funded by Regional Asset District funds and will also be open this summer.

    Staff writer Andy Conte contributed to this report.

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