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Keep calm and swim on: Meet the group that saved Hawthorne Pool

Galesburg's Hawthorne Pool will close on Friday for repairs. It's a victory for a group that spent months fighting to keep the pool open.

GALESBURG, Ill. — Three weeks ago, residents of Galesburg got the news they'd been waiting for: Hawthorne Pool would only be closing temporarily.

The Galesburg City Council had previously considered closing the 80-year-old pool for good because it did not have the budget for the numerous, expensive repairs the building needs.

However, a group of avid pool users banded together and spent months attending and speaking at city council meetings advocating for the repairs. The Save Hawthorne Pool group gathered more than 1,200 signatures from Galesburg residents who wanted the pool to stay. 

On May 2, the city council unanimously voted to fund and repair the pool over the course of five years. It will cost an estimated $3.1 million dollars.

On Friday, May 20, the pool will close in anticipation of those repairs beginning. In the first phase of construction, Hawthorne's roof will be replaced along with indoor columns. In a few weeks, city council will begin reviewing bids for the project. 

City Manager Todd Thompson previously said it could reopen in November after the new roof and columns are installed. All other repairs could happen while the pool is open at a later date.

"It's a blessing, such a blessing. We really worked hard," said Linda Miller, one of the organizers of Save Hawthorne Pool. "We're a town full of heart and I cannot thank the mayor and the city council enough for seeing the importance of this pool and listening to us."

Wednesday marked the last aqua Zumba class before the pool closes for repairs. Many of the attendees go to the workout classes three days a week and have been doing so for decades.

"We have a lot that are the same ones that are still coming," Miller said. "We've had a lot pass because this is an area where people can exercise up until they get really unable to do that anymore."

Christina Fredrickson has been teaching classes at the pool for close to 10 years and said it's a good type of workout for people who are older or injured.

"It's really great for their joints. We've had women that have had hip replacements, knee replacements," Fredrickson said. "We got women out here that had back surgeries and have rods in their back, so it's a lot nicer for somebody who's had (a) physical injury."

Over the years, the exercise group has become friends, but they became even better friends through their fight to save the pool.

"We always have lots of fun. We enjoy it. You miss it if you're not here," Bonnie Johnson said. She's been using the pool since 2002. "We're just like a little family."

"I think my very favorite thing are the people," Natalie Kessler said. "It's just a great, great spirited group."

This summer, the group will have to find another pool to work out in. Some will take classes at Lake Storey, but they all look forward to the day they can walk back into Hawthorne Pool.

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