Woman’s donation revamps JCC pool

YOUNGSTOWN — Dr. Barbara S. Drabkin once majored in mathematics, but when it comes to her connection with a 62-year-old swimming pool, no protractor is needed to measure the fact that she’s come full circle.

“It looks like it’s brand new underwater,” Drabkin, a retired anesthesiologist who lives in Hallandale, Fla., said.

Drabkin was referring to the renovated look of the large indoor pool at the Jewish Community Center, 505 Gypsy Lane, on the North Side. The underwater cleanliness also was one of several improvements she saw during Monday’s indoor pool renovation ceremony at the center.

Drabkin’s financial donation to the JCC that made the project possible also was in memory of her late mother, Rose H. Drabkin, who swam regularly in the pool before she died in 2012 at age 103.

She grew up swimming in the pool, which was built in the late 1950s, so that made returning to see it Monday more special for Drabkin, who’s lived in Florida about 45 years and usually visits the Mahoning Valley two or three times annually. She still goes for a swim when she’s able.

In addition to using the pool regularly for decades, Drabkin also served as an occasional lifeguard while in high school and college, she remembered.

“My ties are deep here in this community,” said Drabkin, who also minored in chemistry and biology before being accepted into Ohio State University’s medical school and completing her residency in anesthesiology in the early 1970s at the Youngstown Hospital Association.

Improvements to the pool included replacing underwater lighting with more energy-efficient LED bulbs; installing a safer, state-of-the-art chair lift for people who need extra assistance; adding new flooring to the bleacher area; removing the original lighting, as well as damaged floor tiles; retreading a set of stairs; repainting certain sections; and installing a new platform in an elevator that is accessible to those with physical problems, noted Michael Rawl, the JCC’s executive director.

The pool was closed for several weeks last summer for the renovations, Rawl said.

“This is like an overall facelift. The new paint and flooring have allowed us to elevate the look of it,” said Lisa Long, the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation’s financial-resource development director.

Much of the work got underway earlier this year, Long added.

Drabkin’s donation also will bolster the JCC’s swim programs that include water-fitness classes, swimming instruction for people of all ages and Swim Safe 500, which provides free safety lessons for children who receive free or reduced-priced school lunches, noted Andrew Lipkin, the federation’s chief executive officer.

For Drabkin, the beloved swimming pool is another way to stay connected to the area when she’s in town. She expressed a desire to keep the donation amount private.

“The Jewish Community Center was an important part of life growing up for people my age,” Drabkin said. “It’s a great place to meet and socialize.”



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