Avedis Foundation provides matching grant for half of private fund raising efforts.

The Shawnee Municipal Pool Committee has received a substantial grant from the Avedis Foundation. The board recently approved the pool committee’s grant request of $616,600, which is half the $1,233,200 needed to complete the committee’s fundraising efforts.

“The Avedis grant was extremely good news to those of us working literally day and night to raise funds,” said John Ayers, chairman of the pool committee. “It is, however, a challenge grant, which means it is contingent on us to match it dollar for dollar. And we have a small window in which to do it. To date, the single largest donor towards Avedis’ challenge grant has been a $100,000 donation from the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.”

Michelle Briggs, president and CEO of the Avedis Foundation, said the board is excited to be a part of the project. “The pool and all of its exciting features including the children’s spray park, current channel, bath house, improved and increased drive and parking and enhanced landscaping to the park will be such a great asset for the City of Shawnee. We are honored to partner with the city to ensure this project is successful.”

The Avedis Foundation is rooted in Pottawatomie County. The private nonprofit foundation was formed in 2012 when Unity Health Center finalized an agreement with St. Anthony Network to join one of the largest, faith-based healthcare systems in the United States, becoming St. Anthony Shawnee Hospital. Proceeds from the sale created the Avedis Foundation, making it one of Oklahoma's largest charitable foundations.

Total cost of the new municipal pool and pool bath house is budgeted at $4,233,300. During an August city commission meeting, commissioners were asked and approved $3 million towards that amount, the difference ($1,233,200) to be raised in the community.

“We didn’t want the entire financial burden to be placed on the city,” said Ayers. “With the excitement building around this project, we felt comfortable that local businesses and individuals would step up and support it.”

The goal is to open the pool in 2014. It requires all the money be raised in time to award a bid and begin construction as soon as possible. “We are confident that we can match the Avedis grant. When you include the donations we have received already and the verbal commitments – and we are confident in them – that leaves us about $217,000 shy of matching the Avedis grant,” he said.

The committee has about 10 weeks remaining before funding is needed to award a contract and begin construction if the pool is to potentially open in 2014. Potentially is a key word. “Because of the permanent closing of the old pool, the committee is under the gun to raise the money and get the new pool open in 2014. Our schedule is extremely tight and we are doing the best we can,” Ayers said.

Other donations have ranged from $25 to $25,000 and the committee hopes those donations continue to come in. “Every dime is needed and very much appreciated,” Ayers said. “The new pool is a premier quality of life issue badly needed in Shawnee, and it’s imperative that we reach our goal. We need more businesses to step up and support this project. Avedis has shown great faith in this project and it’s up to the community to donate whatever they can to help us match their grant and reach our goal.”

When their goal is met, the committee plans to publicly recognize all donors, and their names will be permanently fixed on a bronze plaque inside the newly renovated pool house. “People, for years to come, will see who supported this worthwhile community project. It’s no coincidence that Avedis means ‘one who brings glad tidings; the bearer of good news,’” he said. “We are excited about the support so far. They truly were the bearer of good news!”

To donate to the Shawnee Municipal Pool project, checks can be mailed to the Shawnee Community Foundation, 1421 E. 45th Street, Shawnee, OK 74804. All donations are tax deductible.