Community members from all over the island rolled up their shirt sleeves this weekend for a day of service, organized through IGY Marinas’ “Inspire Giving Through You” initiative.
The work put a new face on the St. Thomas Swimming Association’s Aquatic Center and the Boys and Girls Club headquarters downtown.
According to St. Thomas Swimming Association’s Executive Director John Vasbinder, Saturday’s outreach was the first major overhaul that the East End facility has received since it opened a decade ago.
“More than 30 volunteers have shown up this morning to help,” Vasbinder said Saturday, as the group spread out over the entire facility to begin the sprucing up. “And they’re doing a whole major facelift, including painting every wall, every bathroom, the pool and rebuilding the steps."
"And of course, we could not be more grateful,Vasbinder continued. "The St. Thomas Aquatic Center is self-funded, we get no government support, so anything we make is all through the programs we run and that doesn’t always cover items like this.”
The original fencing on the property has been coming apart, so when IGY’s marketing staff reached out to coordinate this weekend’s project, the association jumped at the opportunity, Vasbinder said.
“This is a great, great event. This pool has been open now 10 years and today is the first time since we opened that we’re getting a makeover. It’s very exciting,” he said.
Volunteers were everywhere Saturday, pitching in from the lawn to the deck.
The event has been advertised through IGY and the local media for weeks and according to volunteers on site, pulled in a lot of community support.
“When the notice came in, we all knew we had to participate,” Sheraine Spivey, chief of staff for Sen. Marvin Blyden, said Saturday. “The marinas reached out to our office and explained what the scope of work was and really, it was right up our alley.”
Spivey said community volunteer days was a large part of her previous job, while Blyden, as a contractor, recently came back from a trip to Atlanta where he spent three days renovating veterans’ houses. On Saturday, Spivey even brought her son Jordan out to help, and was excited to see him learn how to paint while on the job.
“One of the volunteers worked with him, and in just a little bit of time, he was painting the walls,” she said. “And that’s what’s so great about events like this. You can pick up skills just by coming out, you give back and you instill pride in your community by make beautiful a place that will helps others. And that’s why we try to help anyone that reaches out, because it’s a way to help build the community without having to give money that we might not have. Elbow grease is something we can give freely, and it helps.”
IGY volunteers also worked Saturday on beautifying the Boys and Girls Center downtown, and according to officials, focused on areas that would improve health and safety conditions at each facility.
“The ceiling fans at the Boys & Girls Club, for example, are the building’s only cooling system,” according to Yacht Haven Grande and American Yacht Harbor general manager Mike Revier. “The existing fans are completely worn out and are totally ineffectual at this point, so being able to replace those fans this weekend will keep the kids from overheating, especially during the summer months.”
Working at the Aquatic Center Saturday, Boys and Girls Club Youth Promoter Clayton Griffith said the organization was grateful for the help.
“We can’t thank everyone enough,” he said. “There are so many people from the community, from agencies around the island that came out and participated and we are not only thankful for the help, but we are thankful to have the opportunity to be a part of it and help others as well.”
Now in its second year, the “Inspire Giving through You” initiative focuses on building corporate social responsibility, officials said. Along with support local non-profits such as the Family Resource Center and the Humane Society throughout the year, the “Inspire” initiative adds two major projects annually.
“There has been a great deal of interest in and support of the IGY Marinas initiative,” according to Yacht Haven Operations Director Charlie Irons. “Volunteers and donations have come in from a broad spectrum of sources, and for Yacht Haven Grande and American Yacht Harbor, this project is a continuation of our tradition of community support. We believe strongly in giving back to the community in which we live and operate. ‘Inspire Giving through You’ has enabled us to take our current program further and be of service in a new, meaningful way. It’s been great to have others in the community join us and participate in this program.”