The WISE-Foundation
Our Mission: To improve people's lives by providing the knowledge and means by which they can become more independent and self sufficient.
Yogesh M. & Bella Y. Patel

Tampa Public Pools



TAMPA:  The following article appeared in the Tampa Tribune on Oct 6, 2010.

Bella Patel's heart ached when she learned new fees at the city poos might prevent children from swimming this summer. "There's nothing more pure and innocent for children than swimming in the summer," Patel wrote in an e-mail Wednesday after reading a story in The Tampa Tribune.


Her next call was to Heather Erickson, who manages three city pools in North Tampa. "What can I do?" the philanthropist and mother of two asked. Patel, who operates a foundation that bene­fits underprivileged women and children, has offered as much 'as $20,000 to ensure every child in Tampa can swim this summer. The offer comes with only one caveat: "I don't want a single child turned away," Patel said. It's a gesture Erickson never expected.   "It restored my faith in humanity," she said. , Patel's offer comes at a time when the city's Parks and Recreation Depart­ment needs it most.  City leaders have been un­der fire the past year as budget cuts have resulted in addition­al fees for summer camps and other popular programs


The new fees to swim at public pools went into effect in January, but many parents and children didn't learn about them until Memorial Day weekend. Some swimmers had to leave because they hadn't brought money. Others couldn't afford it. Children and seniors must pay $2 each visit, while adults pay $4. Or people can buy recreation cards and seasonal swim passes. For a family of four, that adds up to $275 a year. Although some city pro­grams offer scholarships, pub­lic pool facilities can't, accord­ing to parks department spokeswoman Linda Carlo. "The pools are the most expensive things we operate," she said last week. Patel said she hoped a plan for the pools would be in place by today, the last day of school in Hillsborough County. But Erickson said summer swim schedules and staffing have been set, so several de­tails need to be discussed.  "That all defines what I can and can't do," said Erickson. "We have the same goals: Get folks in our pools."


Wednesday, Carlo said the parks and rec department will move quickly to come up with a plan that benefits the most people. Mayor Pam Iorio said Patel's offer "speaks to the kind of community we have." It also may serve as an ex­ample of what's needed to help Tampa and other cities struggling due to the economic downturn, Iorio said. "This approach gets the whole community involved," she said. "City budgets can't fund everything anymore."


But taxpayers shouldn't have to rely on the kindness of others to fix the parks and recreation department's bud­get crisis, said city Council­woman Mary Mulhem.  "It's a good part of the solu­tion," she said. "But ... it's only a small part of the funding that's needed."  Still, Mulhern said she ap­preciates Patel's help.  "I am surprised that it hap­pened so quickly," Mulhem said. "She is very committed."  Patel and her husband, Yo­gesh, who designs power plants for Tampa Electric Co., are known for their generosity through the WISE-Foundation (Women in Search of Educa­tion), helping families across Hillsborough County and be­yond. Through their foundation, they have donated hundreds of backpacks to children and purchased blankets for those in need.


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