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Students spend summer break by the pool in Arbutus

On a sunny summer afternoon, Brooke Towns, 17, kept an alert gaze on two young girls splashing in the Wynnewood Pool as their mother and grandmother relaxed in two plastic lounge chairs nearby.

Towns, a 2014 graduate of Catonsville High School, has been a lifeguard at the pool for two years and has worked there for four. This is her last summer working at the pool before she moves across the Atlantic Ocean to attend college in Wales.

"It's nice working here, but sometimes it gets hot," she said, taking a break from the direct sunlight beneath the shade offered by a green awning.

The teen is one of 10 lifeguards and 22 employees who work at the pool. All lifeguards at the pool are required to become certified , which means they must receive lifeguard, CPR and first aid training.

Lifeguards work two different shifts — from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. or from 1 to 9 p.m. There are usually 5 or 6 lifeguards who work each shift, and they rotate sitting in the lifeguard chair that overlooks the pool.

In addition to keeping a eye on those in the water, their duties include walking around the pool to ensure the safety of members, making sure the grounds are clean and offering first aid.

The pool is tucked away in the Wynnewood neighborhood of Arbutus and can be accessed from Oakland Road.

The only pool in Arbutus, the facility was built in 1955. There are 350 families with memberships. Those seeking membership must be own their homes and live within specified boundaries, which include areas in the 21227 and 21228 ZIP codes south of Frederick Road, said Scott Ripley, manager of the facility.

Last Thursday, adults were soaking up the sun and reading books, while children floated and swam in the chlorinated water and 1990s music blared from a sound system in the background.

The pool opened on Memorial Day and closes Labor Day. Hours are noon to 9 p.m. seven days a week.

The facility is also the home of the Wynnewood Warriors swim team, which competes in dual swim meets in the Central Maryland Swim League in June and July. Members of the team range in age from 4 to 18, according to the Wynnewood Pool's website.

"We had been going since I was little [to the pool] and it seemed like a good summer opportunity to get your feet wet working and experience the work world. So, I just stayed with it," said Towns, a member of the Wynnewood Warriors swim team for 11 years.

Seven of the 10 lifeguards on staff at the pool were on the swim team.

Many of the lifeguards' families are members.

"We try to hire staff whose families have memberships here," said Ripley, who has managed the pool for six summers. "We like to keep the pool community oriented."

Ripley's daughter, Brooke, 16, is among the younger members of the lifeguard unit. Lifeguards must be 15 years of age or older.

"I think it's pretty nice working for my dad, because he's a pretty great boss," she said. "It's kind of a part of home for me, because I was actually a member here before I started working here."

Emily Holden, 20, a psychology student at Towson University, has worked at the pool for six summers.

"I've grown up here and I just want to look out for the safety of the community," said Holden, who also swam for the Wynnewood swim team.

Holden, whose family lives in Halethorpe, has been going to the pool since she was 4.

"I've known a majority of the staff since we were little kids, so this is like working with friends," Holden said.

Members agree the pool is a focal point of their community in the summertime.

Arbutus resident Nancy Hoffman, 43, . was among those enjoying the sun at the facility last week.

Hoffman sat on the pool deck as her daughter, Faith, 11, and niece Samantha, 10, floated in hot green and pink inner tubes at the deep end.

"It's very community oriented," Hoffman said. "We love seeing all the kids outside of school and it's great."

The pool was quiet when Hoffman visited on Thursday with only one lifeguard on duty.

But it gets busier during the weekend. "We usually go to two lifeguards on weekends," said David Committe, 19, a lifeguard who resides in Elkridge. He was also on the Wynnewood Warriors swim team.

Being a lifeguard at Wynnewood Pool is different from your average summer job.

"It's a different job than most people have," said Committe, a student at Howard Community College and pool member since he was 7.

They also get to spend time with friends and family while at work.

"Everyone knows each other here and they have cookouts," Brooke Ripley said. "If I was working at a bookstore or something, I wouldn't really have that experience where I get to meet people and actually experience all the history that's been here."

But it's not all fun.

"It's fun, but you're also responsible for everyone on the pool grounds," Holden said. "It's not as stressful as you'd think it is, but it's still kind of stressful because you're looking out for the lives of the swimmers in the pool."

"You get a little anxious sometimes if you see a kid go under and you don't see them come up right away," Towns said."You have to be constantly thinking of ways to react in certain types of situations."

Towns said some kids panic after they jump in the water.

"If they're 15 or under, we test them to see if they can swim," she said. "I've had to jump in a few times this summer because kids panic when they jump in the water."

"You're under pressure a lot of the time to make sure everything goes smoothly," she said.

When school starts in late August and the pool closes for the season, they'll have to leave their spot next to the pool behind.

"I'll miss it," Towns said. "I'll miss seeing the same people every summer and seeing my co-workers."

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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