Wellness Center Opens in Elma

Posted: February 17, 2013
Wellness Center Opens in Elma

Rural town of 550 people rallies to create a center for their health

The Elma Area Wellness Center (EAWC) officially opened on Sunday, Jan. 27. It's an endeavor that community members began discussing about a year ago, and to date, ample funds have been raised and hundreds of volunteer hours have been logged.

Callie Weigel, marketing chairperson of The BRIDGE Organization, Inc., noted that, at the time, the organization had wanted to get more young people involved. "They wanted to develop more leadership in the community," she said. "Presently, our membership is in the 50+ age group. We wanted to hack into all of the younger minds in the community and steer into the direction of their ideas."

Through that line of thinking, the organization formed the Young Professionals group, offering them $10,000 in seed money to come together and create their vision for what Elma should be.

"We sent out a number of letters to people who were roughly aged 40 and under," said Erin Ludwig, EAWC board secretary and member. "We told them we'd be having a meeting and we wanted their input as far as what would make Elma a better place. From there came ideas – people wanted more social activities and outings, and a wellness center. So, we formed committees, and one of those committees was for the wellness center, which started off by offering Zumba classes."

The group then conducted a survey, asking community members whether they would be interested in joining a wellness center, as well as the classes and equipment they would like to see.

"One of the questions was: ‘Would you consider being a Board member?'" noted Ludwig. "Then we pulled those people in and started to dig deeper, addressing which buildings could potentially be used, and is the idea still viable based on the response of our survey?"

The group also discussed the amount of money they would need to raise in order to renovate a building, and to purchase equipment.

Ludwig adds, "We talked about different structures, [such as] would it be run by the City, or would it be non-profit? We sorted that out by weighing pros and cons, and from there we decided to become a non-profit organization."

The organization has a seven-member Board of Directors, including: Jamie Gansen-President, Angie Huffman-Vice President, Brad Shatek-Treasurer, Erin Ludwig-Secretary, Jennifer Johnson, Ryan McDermott, and Ann O'Brien. Other committee members include: Ken Gansen, Derrick Huffman, Scott O'Brien, Bruce Weigel and Callie Weigel.

The organization decided to renovate and operate the wellness center at a building located downtown, at 501 Busti Ave.

Board member Ryan McDermott said, "We wanted the best location available, and we decided on this building. It's right here in the middle of town; people go by it all the time. . .We then talked to the bank, which graciously donated the building to us."

The new community venue was built entirely by community volunteer labor and funded entirely by donations – more than $100,000 worth.

"Right off the bat we had a number of very generous donors who gave us large gifts to get us started," McDermott said, "and then we started sending letters out into the community, and money started coming in – from both the usual places as well as unexpected places."

He adds, "We surpassed our $100,000 goal."

As far as volunteer work? "If we had to log all of the hours people have put into this place, it's probably in the thousands by now," McDermott said.

Meanwhile, Ludwig notes, "Everything we have this far is paid for, but we have a wish list – both with renovations and equipment needs. For example, we want to replace the north windows of the buildings to become more energy efficient."

She adds, "We're seeing great interest in our spin bikes. We have six of them, and we want to increase that number. We're also wanting equipment for different classes, as we hear more interest and get instructors. For example, we've talked about [obtaining] mats for gymnastics and wrestling, and we'd like to get some resistance bands and exercise balls."

Jennifer Johnson, Board member and wellness center member, has enjoyed working out at the facility. "I love it," she said, adding that her favorite part about the facility is the location. "It's so easy to get here. I live right in town, and I don't have to take an out-of-town trip just to work out."

Board members hope the location of the wellness center will give area residents the motivation to work out more. "It has with me," said Johnson. "I'm excited because I've been waiting for something like this here."

Weigel notes, "To me, one of the biggest advantages is the fact that it's open 24/7. With your electronic key card, you can fit your exercise into your day."

She adds, "If you have a busy day and you can't get there for a set class at 5 o'clock everyday, you can make your own [timeframe] work – whether that's 5 in the morning, 5 at night, or whatever time you need."

Board member Brad Shatek says he is also looking forward to being able to work out at the facility. "My wife and I will probably be here quite a bit, I'm sure," he said, adding, "I also have several friends in the community who have used it pretty much everyday since it's been open."

The wellness center offers Zumba, Yoga and Cardio Blast classes, circuit weight room, free weights and exercise room with many cardio/strength equipment options, uni-sex restroom with shower facilities, handicap-accessible restroom, sauna room, lockers and social area. The facility also showcases flat screen TV's for member viewing and MP3 player hook-ups on many cardio machines for member listening enjoyment while working out.

For more information, visit the Elma Area Wellness Center online at

Source:, February 7, 2013.

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