Pools (of Hope) Offers Healthy Fun and Food
By Dianne Anderson
Bigger screen TVs and top haute couture, all those luxury items of a few short years ago have now given way to new high-priced in-demand products – like dinner with protein.
Jeff Williams of The Long Beach Center for Economic Inclusion, said while their food boxes have been seeing more fresh vegetables, which is always good, dairy and meat have been in short supply at food pantries.
His network is thrilled to have pulled down a recent grant from Los Angeles County.
“We just got a grant from the county to purchase $60,000 worth of meat for the next eight months because they don’t get that in their food boxes,” he said. “It’s a nice win, but the need is greater than that.”
The Long Beach Food Support Network partnered up during the pandemic with 11 participating organizations and nonprofits that distribute free food.
LBCEI also helps direct resources toward them to expand their work. Currently, they are serving about 4,500 people a month in Long Beach. They also have a distribution every other Wednesday with about 20 partners.
“Hygiene items, women’s items, laundry detergent, people are doing without all those,” Williams said. “All of our numbers are up, not down, of people using our pantry, even though the pandemic is over.”
Pat Dixon, director of California Aquatic Therapy and Wellness Center, Inc. is one of the partners in the network.
Her organization, formerly known as Pools of Hope, had to shut down the pool during the pandemic, but pivoted to provide basic needs, food distribution, clothing and support services.
But without LBCEI, she said there wouldn’t be a food pantry for her organization to distribute to the community.
Coming up on August 20, Dixon is also hosting their annual back-to-school event, giving out up to 400 backpacks. There will be free groceries on that day for families.
“We’re hoping to have Tommy the Clown, there will be pony rides, and a way for children to celebrate the end of the summer and equip them with some of the things they need to go back to school,” she said.
Through a grant from Long Beach Port, the organization also provides free asthma screening for school-age children with their breath mobile. The community is invited to contact her services about the program, which partners with St. Mary’s Clinic and serves North Long Beach, Paramount and Compton.
Dixon, the executive director, said the pool originally was founded by the late Evelyn Dupont, who had polio in the 1950s, and rehabilitated herself by swimming. She no longer needed a brace to walk.
“She opened her backyard pool to provide swimming lessons for children with special needs, all these children were coming to her backyard, and the community heard about it,” Dixon said.
The nonprofit is located at 6801 Long Beach Blvd., serving about 1,500 disabled children and seniors each year. Eunice Kennedy, who started the Special Olympics, used to bring her own son. The pool is accessible year-round and enclosed, focused on therapeutic swimming lessons for special needs kids, but also seniors with disabilities or anyone that needs rehabilitation in a warm water aquatic environment.
But through the years, she’s always amazed to hear the kind of stereotypes that Black people don’t swim.
“Of the people that come to Pools of Hope, I would say 60% are African American,” she said. “For seniors, we provide aquatic patients, most are African American as well”
Typically, Dixon hosts a summer swim camp that usually draws about 200 community kids. This year, they also partnered with Long Beach City College to provide a field trip for her kids to the Carson location with its beautiful new aquatic center.
Dixon said their new name reflects the holistic body, mind and nutrition connection.
She also commends Vice Mayor Rex Richardson, whose council office contacted her to learn about why they had shut down during the pandemic, and how to segue into the food component.
“A lot of factors play into well-being. The food pantry is just one of them that came out of the COVID. That’s how we started food pantry going on three years now,” she said.
Throughout the areas she serves, she said that their tight-knit community and food pantry is a big part of how the pool experience helps bring people together.
“They take care and check on one another. These are mainly seniors that participate in most of our programs, but our youth and wellness program for children is a big part of our community.”
Their Saturday pantry is held at 11:00 a.m. where they consistently serve about 200 people, and they give away all the food they get.
“We don’t have food for more. If we had more resources the lines would be longer. People come early to get in line,” she said.
For more information, see https://www.facebook.com/caaquatictherapy/
or call 310.537.2224