Summer splashes down at community center

Five-year-old Toby Averill knew what to say to every adult he met on Labor Day.

"Thank you for working," he said.

For Toby, the day is also synonymous with the Labor Day Pool Party at the Merage Jewish Community Center in Irvine.

His family has been attending the annual event for the past five years and look forward to it each year, said Toby's father Steve Averill.

"We love coming here," Averill said. "It's the perfect environment for the kids. It's like a home away from home."

The community center throws two pool parties a year — one on Memorial Day to say hello to summer and one on Labor Day to bid it farewell, said the center's marketing director Sheila Witzling.

"This is our way of acknowledging that summer is closing down, kids are going back to school and we wanted to invite everybody to come out here and have a good time," she said.

Monday's pool party also served as an open house to invite everyone from the community to visit the center and join in the fun with its members.

Families came together to spend time in the pool, buy lunch or enjoy free snacks like popcorn and cotton candy.

Although the center's cultural activities are Jewish-faith based, its programs, resources and activities are open to everyone from the community, Witzling said.

Dina Metcalf's family is not Jewish, but said the center was the best place for her, her husband and children in the area.

"This was the best value in town," said the Corona del Mar resident.

More than a year ago, Metcalf's family began looking for a place with a pool because her community didn't have one, she said.

Metcalf, who described herself as an Italian girl from Boston, said she gets to have her own time at the center to workout at the gym, while also giving her three kids the opportunity to play at the pool and participate in other activities.

"We make a whole day out of it," she said.

The center's Chief Officer Dan Bernstein said the center brings families together. With the center, families don't have to go through the trouble of coordinating events at the park or getting together at someone's home, they just come to the center, he said.

Toby said he was having a great time hanging out at the pool.

When asked why he's thanking everyone for working, he said, "Because grownups work for kids."

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