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Monday, February 18 , 2019, 9:38 am | Fair 51º

 
 
 
 

Amid Santa Barbara Budget Crunch, Los Baños Backers Make a Splash

Group puts fundraising prowess to work on behalf of Los Baños, Ortega pools, and throws a party Sunday to celebrate

When cash-strapped Santa Barbara officials were forced to look at which programs and services to cut earlier this year, swimmers at Los Baños del Mar and Ortega pools found that Sunday swim hours and free rec swimming for children were on the chopping block.

But instead of just complaining about the problem, Monica Jones and the group, Friends of Los Baños, sprung into action.

“Lots of people complain and say the city’s poorly run, but those people really work hard,” Jones said.

Jones got the city to agree to keep both pools open if the group could raise $8,600 for Ortega Pool and $4,420 for Los Baños. That sum, the city said, would allow Ortega to continue offering a free swim time for children and Los Baños could keep its Sunday swim time for the rest of the year.

Jones has been appearing before the city council since the budget talks began, and on Tuesday she showed up again, thanking council members for their support as Friends of Los Baños has worked to raise money.

Just over the past few months, Jones said, more than 150 people have stepped up to donate money, contributing almost $11,000.

Popular Los Baños del Mar underwent a major renovation in the 1990s, thanks in large part to the fundraising efforts of Friends of Los Baños. Now the group is diving back into fundraising, with efforts to preserve programs and hours at both Los Baños and Ortega pools.
Popular Los Baños del Mar underwent a major renovation in the 1990s, thanks in large part to the fundraising efforts of Friends of Los Baños. Now the group is diving back into fundraising, with efforts to preserve programs and hours at both Los Baños and Ortega pools. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

After Jones thanked the city for working with the group, Mayor Marty Blum commended its fundraising efforts.

“When things are hard, it’s good to see the citizens really stepping up to the plate,” she told Jones.

But the fundraising is far from over. With further cuts likely in the future, Friends of Los Baños will be hosting a pool party and fundraiser Sunday at Los Baños, 401 Shoreline Drive, to help ensure that hours and free programs remain intact.

The party will run from 1 to 4 p.m., with the regular Sunday swim occurring from noon to 2 p.m., and Jones said guests were invited to swim before the party. A $15 donation is requested and admission is free for families who donated more than $50 to the group previously. Click here to RSVP.

Friends of Los Baños has an impressive fundraising record, having collected more than $1 million in 1990 to renovate Los Baños del Mar. 

Prior to that effort, the group formed after city plans surfaced to transform the Depression-era building into a grandiose harbor entrance, Jones said. The group banded together to convince the city to declare the building a historic landmark.

Santa Barbara officials have said it would take around $13,000 to keep Los Baños and Ortega pools programs in place through the end of the year.
Santa Barbara officials have said it would take around $13,000 to keep Los Baños and Ortega pools programs in place through the end of the year. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

With this latest effort, however, Jones said the group “nickel-and-dimed it the whole way.”

“Most were small contributions of $10 or $15,” she said. “Lots of 10-dollar amounts adding up is an indication that you have a lot of people involved in something.”

Several benefactors made larger donations, including one whom Jones calls “a kind and generous mermaid” — an anonymous donor who offered to match any contributions and gave $4,300.

Jones, 68, swims at Los Baños three to four times a week, and she said many of her pool mates are using the regular exercise to help recover from surgeries or to keep health problems, like diabetes, at bay.

“Pools are crucial for people,” she said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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