Pool season may be over. But the next time a kid in Belmont, Mass., does a running cannonball into the local pool, she has a community bank to thank.
Belmont Savings Bank recently came to the rescue of the oldest municipal pool in the country.
The pool was given to the town in 1912 by the family of William Underwood, the founder of Underwood Deviled Ham, a spreadable-meat company that is now owned by B&G Foods in Parsippany, N.J.
"The pool is beloved by the community," Ellen Schreiber, a member of the Underwood Pool Building Committee, said in a recent phone interview.
After a century of belly flops and back floats, the pool was in need of repairs. It no longer met state regulations and, after years of receiving short-term variances, was forced to shut down.
"We've known this was coming," Schreiber said. "We just got word recently that it will not be open again."
The town government recently allocated $5.2 million for the design and construction of a modern replacement. But an unexpected twist in the bidding process last month left the project $400,000 over budget and seemingly in peril.
It was an "intimidating" shortfall, Schreiber said, and the building committee only had a couple weeks to raise the funds to meet the bidding-process deadlines.
So Schreiber, a well-known activist in town, jumped into action. She called Bob Mahoney, the president of Belmont Savings, who immediately called a meeting of the bank's foundation. Within 24 hours, the bank offered the pool project a matching grant of $200,000, to fill the $400,000 gap.
"I can tell you it was a game changer," Schreiber said, noting that the building committee has almost met its funding goal.
The bank simply had a responsibility to the community to save the pool, according to Bob Mahoney, the president and chief executive of Belmont Savings Bank.
"The notion that there wouldn't be a Belmont pool, it didn't make any sense at all," he said in an interview Thursday.
When Mahoney brought the issue to the attention of the bank foundation's board, one of the board members immediately told him, "I met my wife there!"
Belmont Savings was founded in 1885 as a mutual thrift. The $1.2 billion-asset bank went public three years ago and has grown rapidly since then.
"This is the way of sharing with the town the bank's success," Mahoney said.
In addition to offering money, Belmont Savings rallied public support and generated some public buzz.
The bank sent a fundraising email to all of its customers. Mahoney and other executives also put together a list of local philanthropists and "dialed for dollars," he said.
The results have been swift. Together between the matching grant and the individual donations, the project has raised $388,888 from more than 350 donors. Given the public's support for the project, there's no question that the building committee will raise the remaining funds in the coming days, Mahoney said.
"It reminds me of 'It's a Wonderful Life,' " he said.