Above the doors to the Hope Warm Water pool. (Terry Frei)
legacy is both heartening and impressive. It involves more, so much more, than the warm water therapy pool named after her
in the Greeley Center for Independence headquarters building in south Greeley.
After she founded the GCI in 1977, the organization
became both an advocate and an aid for those with temporary and permanent disabilities. Before she retired in 2008, GCI had
added the Camelot II Apartments, 18 accessible units adjacent to the University of Northern Colorado (1993); the Hope Therapy
Center for physical and occupational therapy, with the offices above it (1997); and the Stephens Farm Campus, with 18 apartments
for those with Acquired Brain Injuries (2006).
I admit it: Before the pool controversy became a firestorm, I knew virtually
nothing about the GCI and Cassidy’s legacy. I’d heard of the GCI, but that’s about it. Wasn’t sure
what it was. Wasn’t sure what it did.
I’m willing to bet I had a lot of company in that regard.
And then the all-volunteer GCI
board decided to close the pool, citing an ongoing annual deficit and daunting future maintenance costs, plus an alternative
plan to convert the pool area to a gym and smaller pool designed to be used by those with handicaps and disabilities.
Cara Machina, left, speaks to the GCI board while her brother, Rob Cassidy, listens. They are the daughter and
son of GCI founder Hope Cassidy. The Hope Warm Water Pool is named after her.
I sat in the meeting room Wednesday night on
the second floor of the main building, above the pool, composed a story on the fly as testimony continued and periodically
I heard 26 speakers — including Rob Cassidy and Cara Machina, Hope Cassidy’s son and daughter —
passionately argue that the pool should remain open.
As I related in the final version of the story, Hope’s children, especially
Machina, were adamant that if Hope still was involved and part of the dialogue, she would be opposed to the closure.
of the 3-minute time limit for speakers, took a deep breath and unloaded on the board.
She repeated a common refrain on the evening
when she said, “This pool can be marketed. … There are ways to bring in a lot of money.” She argued that
the pool actually is making a profit that isn’t being “plowed back into the pool.” And she again agreed
with many other speakers, when she said, “Nobody knew it was having trouble. We need to let them know it’s having
Well, that part seems to have been accomplished.
Machina and her brother also brought up the recent GCI sale of the Camelot
“I didn’t even know it had been sold,” Machina said. “I would like to know what happened
with the money from the funds there.”
director Sarita Reddy Thursday said by email: “We sold it at the end of 2018 because it had become an inappropriate
setting for vulnerable people. The major grant funder for the project came to visit and said as much. We sold it to a company
that is invested in keeping it as affordable housing but has the funds to renovate it completely. … There was no major
profit. It simply served to reduce the debt we have on our properties.”
Good can come out of this, even if the board
won’t back down on the proposed closure. This has raised the GCI’s profile and, yes, it’s possible this
could shake supporters — in one form or another — of the warm water pool out of the trees.
Speaker after speaker said that
support is out there.
OK, let’s see it. And soon enough to convince the board it’s the right thing to do.
the board back down now, given the response?
Keep in mind that even 26 speakers and a jaw-dropping overall turnout isn’t
necessarily an indication of pervasive public opinion. Plus a volunteer board for a non-profit that does considerable public
good would be irresponsible to not be passionate about pragmatism and the bottom line, rather than simply placing a dampened
finger aloft to check which way the winds of passion are blowing. The board members are entrusted to make whatever decisions
needed to keep GCI able to serve its mission and people. The pool is part of that mission, but as an adjunct service, not
necessarily just for those with physical disabilities and brain injuries.
It all sounded so simple, and it all came at the board.
Six of the 10 GCI board members listening to the public feedback Wednesday night. From left: Deborah Sergesketter,
Chuck Connell, Mike Savage, Stephanie Torrez, Chris Woodruff, Shelly Rios.
Start a GoFundMe campaign and ask for the support
of those who have used the pool for rehabilitation and pain relief.
Hit up the Monforts (again).
Throw a gala.
Apply for grants.
Those who get considerable good out of using the pool were both passionate and convincing. Some had
disabilities. Others simply have had repeated surgeries and/or have bodies rebelling as pages are torn off the calendar.
it was clear that for many, succumbing to the recruiting pitch from UCHealth Medical Fitness for its 96-degree pool in Windsor
isn’t a realistic option. That pitch came via Facebook on the comments section beneath Sara Knuth’s Feb. 7 Tribune
news story, and it read, in part: “We just wanted to let you know that the Hope pool is not the only warm water therapy
pool in Weld county. We have an amazing salt-water therapy pool located in Windsor, just a quick 10 minutes from Greeley.”
That must be from extreme West Greeley. My pal, iPhone Maps, says the Windsor facility is 24 minutes from downtown Greeley.
Other speakers pointed out that the UCHealth facility doesn’t accept the Silver Sneakers program that many insurance
The solution seems obvious. Some speakers even alluded to a process along these lines. Board president Shelly Rios
hinted of it after the Wednesday night session. I hinted at it earlier, too.
See if the support, as speaker after speaker promised there
was, really is out there.
Invite Cara Machina to be part of the process, both for
the pool and moving forward, as the trustee of her mother’s legacy. Now, she’s an outside critic. Make her an
insider. Utilize her passion, so on display Wednesday night. I’d hope she’d be willing to do it.
a collaborative fundraising effort. It shouldn’t be up to the 10 volunteer board members alone, and the fact is, the
board tossed around many of the possibilities before deciding to pull the plug on the pool.
Challenge those who said they’d
contribute or get involved in fundraising.
Set a goal and a reasonable time limit.
If the pool effectively can be endowed
with a variety of money-raising means, rather than have it mainly rely on the whims of year-to-year grant funding, it stays
not … bring on the gym.
Story on Greeley Tribune site