The race is on to save the Nile Swim Club.
Christopher Sample, president of the swim club in Yeadon Borough, said he and the board of governors will attempt to save the historic African-American nonprofit from a delinquent tax sale that takes place in less than 30 days.
“We’re going to try everything: It’s a Hail Mary at this point,” he said during a telephone conversation on Friday.
The swim club is facing a delinquent property tax bill of more than $270,000. The nonprofit must raise practically the entire amount before the Sept. 13 sale by the Delaware County Tax Claim Bureau.
Sample, who is the chief of staff for City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, said preliminary plans to save the club include soliciting funds through an online fundraising website, which has yet to be set up, and seeking assistance from elected officials. The strategy will be to call on donors nationally to save the historic swim club.
“This is an African-American institution,” he said.
Andre Kenneth-Andrews, vice president of the pool’s board of governors, said the goal was to “save the club by any means necessary to keep this historic swim club open.”
“We want to keep fighting,” he said during a telephone conversation. “I want to keep this pool open.”
Club’s historic legacy
Opened in 1959, the pool became the first African-American owned and operated swim club in the nation. The founders of the swim club were originally denied membership to the white swim club in the borough.
According to the club’s history, in 1957, Yeadon’s Black families were denied membership in the Yeadon Swim Club.
Determined to provide a place for their children to swim, Black locals purchased a section of Sullivan Field, now Yeadon Community Park.
The three original founders, Carson Puriefoy, Elmer Stewart and Zoe Mask, were later joined by seven Black Yeadon families to form a non-profit corporation in February 1958, the Nile Swim Club of Yeadon.
The club’s name was chosen to reflect the spirit of the ancient, life-giving waters at the heart and soul of African-American heritage. At 4,135 miles, the Nile River in Africa is regarded as the longest in the world.
In April 1959, the small group of founders made settlement on the tract of land in Sullivan Field and signed a contract with Harold Boyd, a Black architect, to design the club.
According to the Nile’s history on its website, the club could not possibly be as lavish as the white club turned out to be.
Apparently, the young Black architect chosen to develop the Nile had just earned his architectural degree. His plan would be simple and more utilitarian in design. It would encompass a regulation-size swimming pool, a wading pool for young children, bathrooms, an office and a snack bar.
To much excitement, a groundbreaking ceremony was held in May 1959, and on July 11, 1959, the Nile Swim Club was officially opened.
In 1963, under the presidency of Thomas Gary, the club purchased 2½ additional acres, and a basketball court and tennis courts were added.
Big hole to fill
The nonprofit faces a combined $270,453.59 delinquent property tax bill, of which $188,800.39 is owed for the swim club and $81,653.20 for the parking lot on the property, according to property tax reports.
The swim club’s largest debt holder is William Penn School District, which is owed nearly $208,000.
The nonprofit filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2010 and again in 2016, and has failed to pay its taxes for years.
The swim club sold approximately 145 memberships this year, and brought in about $100,000 in revenue — enough to pay for day-to-day operations but not enough for taxes, Sample said.
Sample said he believed it was unfair to fully tax the swim club, which operates only between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
On Friday, Charles Gibbs, solicitor of Yeadon, reiterated his previous comments that the borough was currently evaluating how to ensure the club becomes compliant with its tax obligations to the borough. He declined to comment further.
Delaware County Treasurer John Dowd did not respond to requests for comment.
Yeadon has approximately 11,400 residents, of whom 91 percent are Black or African-American, according to U.S. Census estimates. The median household income is $48,420, and 14 percent of residents live in poverty.
Membership costs for the swim club range from $300 for a family of four, $175 for an individual adult and $125 for seniors and teenagers, according to the club’s website, www.nileswimclub.org. Membership includes free swim lessons, daily access to the club, and discounts on events and party rentals, among other things.
The pool remains open and will continue to operate normally through Labor Day.
On Friday, as the mercury rose into the 90s at noon, the pool opened and members trickled in. Children jumped in the pool for a swim lesson, while other members selected their lawn chairs on the short-cut grass and set up for the day.
Pool officials declined to allow a reporter to interview members on Friday.
When asked what the pool meant to him, Kenneth-Andrews, who was a lifeguard at the pool and taught swimming there for more than two decades, said: “Love, caring people, and it’s ours.”