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The Gang of Volunteers

USMS HQ Clean-up Day: Powered By Volunteers

Photos by Dean Dye (Click each photo for more)

Early Saturday morning last weekend, over 30 volunteers showed up at the new U.S. Masters Swimming headquarters in Sarasota, Fla., in response to a call for help in cleaning up neglected landscaping and trash on the property. The day started at 7:00 a.m. with coffee, donuts, and bagels. The volunteers were mostly swimmers with the local USMS club, the Sarasota YMCA Sharks Masters. Also in attendance, two members of the Sarasota Storm Triathlon Club; one member of St. Pete Masters from St. Petersburg, about 40 miles north of Sarasota; and one lone non swimmer, a member of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.

Executive Director Gets Dirty

In the weeks preceding clean-up day, USMS staff had secured the necessary permits from the City of Sarasota to clear some invasive and neglected trees and shrubs. But they weren’t exactly sure how much would get done; it would depend upon how many volunteers showed up and what equipment they brought. There was a long list; jobs were prioritized and fingers crossed.

Hauling Debris

Amazingly, everything on the list and more was completed. Chainsaws, axes, pole saws, and every type of yard tool imaginable were swiftly brought to bear on the overgrown vegetation and in four hours, the property had been transformed. One volunteer even brought her four-wheeler and trailer to haul downed trees and loads of debris to the front of the property for pickup. Another brought enough equipment to open a garden center. All brought high spirits and everyone took immense pride in the various projects they had chosen to work on.

Fun With Chainsaws

One crew set about the front of the building with loppers, pruning shears and rakes to renovate the landscaped beds that had overgrown their boundaries. Other volunteers raked trash and rotting vegetation out of the pond and adjacent creek. The tree crews in the back gleefully attacked diseased and invasive trees, and shouts of “tim-ber!” could be heard above the chainsaws. Others chose badly neglected shrubbery to groom and spent hours making it beautiful again.

No Open Water Swim Here

The Blue Pagoda, as it is known to the City’s Historic Preservation Board, was built in 1956. Designed by architect Victor Lundy of the Sarasota School of Architecture, the building consists of all glass exterior walls, topped by a graceful peaked roof of imported Japanese tiles. The roof tiles are imbued with several shades of blue and shimmer like water in the bright Sarasota sunshine. Inside, the underbelly curves of the roof are lined with wood planks and supported by large wood beams.

Truly a work of art, the building now sits in a garden of unlimited potential. With the small pond, creek, and newly cleared property, future plantings and landscape design will make the headquarters a must-see for all USMS members traveling to Florida. View the video of the property as volunteer crews were winding down and check out the rest of the photos.

USMS thanks all the swimmers who gave up their Saturday morning to help; the staff is tremendously grateful for and proud of the volunteer spirit and skill of the USMS members in the community. Special thanks to SYSM Coach Rick Walker for rallying his team and asking them to participate in clean-up day in lieu of their normal Saturday practice.

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