For Anne Warner Cribbs, everything comes down to one goal: Get to the finish line.
Her identity as an Olympic swimmer and athlete shapes the lens with which she views most of her projects.
Cribbs, a Palo Alto resident and graduate of Stanford University, won a gold medal at the 1959 Pan American Games and competed on the relay team that won a gold medal at the Rome Olympics in 1960.
Over the decades, Cribbs' contributions to Palo Alto and the greater community has extended well-beyond the Olympic pool.
Locally, she led the Bay Area's bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games and brought the Senior Games to Palo Alto. She co-founded the American Basketball League, the first women's professional basketball league in the nation. Her outstanding athletic achievements have earned her a spot in the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame, the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame, the Northern California Jewish Hall of Fame and the San Mateo County Hall of Fame.
In Palo Alto, she's been the driving force working behind the scenes to create many of the community traditions that residents now enjoy, including the annual Chili Cook-Off, the May Fete Parade and Black and White Ball.
A native of the Bay Area, Cribbs was born in Burlingame and went to elementary school at Willow Oaks in Menlo Park. She qualified for the 1960 Olympics in Rome when she was just 15.
Her father died when she was a teen, so she put off going to college until she was a young adult, attending Foothill College in Los Altos Hills for three years before transferring to Stanford University.
Her work in Palo Alto began with a volunteer stint with the city's recreation department, which led to a hired position as a recreation assistant for about $6 an hour. As she gained more experience and was promoted, she helped organize the annual May Fete Parade and created the Black and White Ball in 1987, which has become the premier fundraising event for the Palo Alto Recreation Foundation and a key source of funding for local public schools. Among the free or low-cost community events that the Ball funds are the annual Chili Cook-off, the May Fete Parade and World Music Day.
Cribbs said the idea came up during a staff meeting. The first ball, modeled after a similar one held in San Francisco, was held indoors using some of Cribbs' own silver serving pieces on the tables.
Cribbs' fingerprints also are on the 1994 Palo Alto Centennial celebration and the 1994 World Cup soccer tournament held at Stanford University. She also was the brains behind the metal pingpong tables installed in the newly renovated Lytton Plaza.
Cribbs also spearheaded the fundraising and creation of the Rich May Field, a full-size, lighted soccer field in East Palo Alto, on land partially owned by the Ravenswood City School District and the Catholic Diocese. It honors slain East Palo Alto Police Officer Rich May.
Cribbs' work went national in 1996, when she and Gary Cavalli, whose public relations firm she had joined, started the American Basketball League (ABL), an eight-team league featuring women players. The league failed after a couple of years, yielding to the WNBA.
"Failure is never fun," Cribbs said. "If I could go back I would have a louder voice."
Cribbs work in the community is ongoing. She currently is working to help kickstart the Palo Alto Wellness Center, a priority laid out in the Parks and Recreation Commission's 25-year master plan.
Unlike other neighboring cities, "we don't have a (city) gym that (Palo Alto) owns," Cribbs said.
As of now, a nonprofit has been created to begin fundraising for the wellness center.
"We are working through the community engagement process," she said, and focusing on the location identified for the gym, which is Greer Park.
"It's really important to create a culture of fitness and wellness. City leaders have to say, 'This is not a nice thing to do, it's a 'have-to-do thing.'"
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