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Revitalized wellness center gets Baxter fit, healthy

Members of the community jog on the treadmill to test their fitness level Jan. 2 for the Baxter's Weight Loss 
Challenge at the Baxter Wellness Center.
Members of the community jog on the treadmill to test their fitness level Jan. 2 for the Baxter's Weight Loss Challenge at the Baxter Wellness Center.

BAXTER — As many parents know, when you have kids, time for yourself tends to disappear.

From working full days at their jobs to running to their kids’ constantly growing commitments, many adults cannot find the time to do something for themselves, let alone for their health.

Thanks to the wellness center in Baxter, more and more residents have found free time to work on their wellness and enjoy a little “me” time.

“I run an in-home daycare, so I have kids in my home 11 hours of the day. Come 5:30 p.m. when the last kid leaves, I don’t want to have to drive half an hour to go work out,” Gennypher Popenhagen, president of the Baxter Wellness Center said. “Having (the facility) very closely located to me, I can’t make up an excuse.”

“Quite a few years ago, (Baxter Community School) went forward with a bond. As part of the bond, we wanted to do something for the community,” Todd Martin, superintendent of Baxter Community Schools, said. “As part of that, the wellness center was going to be built and housed here at the school.”

Baxter Wellness Center opened in 2006. After 10 years of use, the facility found itself in need of new equipment. The superintendent said there was no plan in place to replace the exercise paraphernalia.

“Not all the equipment was in stellar condition. We did our very best to keep it maintained, but we were starting to get a few complaints about the equipment not working or functioning the way it should. ... We saw that our traffic was decreasing,” Martin said. “About last year, we began taking measures to start some fundraising. The Baxter Education Foundation helped get a fundraising group together. They charged us with replacing the equipment. It grew into something a little bit bigger than that.”

The group began by sending letters to members of the community asking for donations. They also organized a few themed 5K runs to benefit the center.

“In April (2016), we held our first 5K. It was a superhero (themed) 5K. We had great turnout for our first run. We had 25 kids and 25 adults. Everyone came dressed up as their favorite superhero,” Popenhagen said. “Then we were able to take over the 5K run during Fun Days and we did a stars-and-stripes theme because it was the weekend after the Fourth of July. That was really our second fundraiser.”

After seeing the community support, the fundraising committee was inspired to do something more. According to Popenhagen, what started as replacing new equipment slowly transformed into a complete revitalization of the facility.

“We started remodeling in September. We took a week (to upgrade the facility). They came in and put the mirrors up. The old TVs were taken down and the new ones were put up. We completely repainted the whole place. We had the quote on the wall painted that week. All the new equipment was put in that week. We did it one week. It was a lot of time up there, getting ready for our kickoff for the ‘Fall Into Fitness’ weekend and our open house.”

According to the committee president, the group spent roughly $45,000 on the renovation. After their open house, Popenhagen said their was an immediate increase of traffic at the center.

“I have never seen the place busier. Every time I am up there, there is someone up there, if not numerous people,” she said. “I do feel like it is being used a lot more.”

According to the group, the fitness facility currently has more than 517 patrons, which does not include the students and staff who use the facility during school hours. With that, about 35 community members sign in to use the center daily.

“We see it being used by different groups of people,” Martin said. “It is very common to see our older, senior population there in the mornings, because they are not working and have time to come in. Now, we are seeing all different ages going in there and working out ... We have equipment that is really going to accommodate all those different age groups.”

The center currently has five matrix treadmills, three octane pro elliptical, one precor Elliptical, two cybex recumbents, one nustep recumbent, one matrix recumbent cycle, one matrix upright cycle, five wall mounted monitors, free motion strength training stations, work out benches, mats, dumbbells, core training balls, kettlebells, slam balls, digital scales and an AED station. 

“We have also been offering classes, which is something everyone is excited for in small town Baxter to have, as well,” Popenhagen said. “The first class offered was B.O.O.M., which we had offered throughout our 10-week fitness challenge (which began in January), but it was opened not only to our participants, but also to the community. Now the class is called corefit. It is a high intensity, interval class. It is a good class. It is great.”

The group said they hope to add a power tower and a step-up machine in the center.

“Maybe in the future as Baxter grows, we then decide we need to build a bigger building for it,” Popenhagen said. “Right now, I think (our current facility) is great.”

Through all the work and effort the committee has done throughout the year, they said it would have not been possible without the help and support of the community.

“A huge thank you to everyone for their support in the last year,” Popenhagen said. “The fact that everyone was able to donate, and do the fitness challenge and weight loss classes it has really helped make the wellness center what it is now.”

The facility is free to the community weekdays from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Residents can also gain access to the center from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, by purchasing an extended card for $20.

For more information, call 641-227-3102 or find Baxter Wellness Center on Facebook.

Contact Anthony Victor Reyes

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