POWHATAN – A few dozen county employees and fire and rescue personnel gathered last week for the official unveiling of a new fitness center created to help improve their health.
A ribbon cutting was held Wednesday, Aug. 24 for the 24-hour gym, which will serve county employees and fire and rescue volunteers, at the Pocahontas Landmark Center. The two rooms used in the former middle school gym had not previously had a purpose since the building was renovated for the county’s use.
The workplace fitness center was created to help the county promote a better wellness philosophy, which improves quality of life, brings optimal health and the sense of well-being, and helps people rest actively, work efficiently and fully participate in public and social life, according to Kim Schmitt, operations manager for Powhatan 911 Communications and one of the fitness room coordinators. The fitness center is also meant to help employees manage stress, which in turn helps with increased productivity, greater job satisfaction, reduced sick leave usage and staff turnover, as well as improving overall morale.
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“Opening this fitness room is a clear indication that Powhatan is investing in the health and well-being of our employees. This means something,” Schmitt said.
She also pointed out that having the gym available 24 hours a day improves work-life balance. Some county employees and volunteers who work long hours or overtime regularly will now have the chance to break away for a quick lunch break workout or get their workout in before or after a night shift.
“I do still work overnight. I could get off at 5 a.m., come and work out and then go home and get my daughter on the bus. So that is a huge benefit,” she said.
The county received $11,850 in cash donations and a few equipment donations to fill the two-room gym with a treadmill, a row machine and various weights, Schmitt said. She pointed out the project would not have been possible were it not for the efforts of Tom Nolan, director of public safety, to solicit donations, purchase and assemble equipment, and organize manpower to move heavy equipment.
Nolan thanked several sponsors for the donations it took to make the fitness room a reality: L3Harris, Powhatan Auto/NAPA, Powhatan Lions Club Foundation, Powhatan Bar Association, Byron Burns, AMK Services, Mountain Valley Tower Services, Altairis Technology Partners and Motorola Solutions.
Any time county employees are healthier and happier, the county also benefits, especially with first responders, county administrator Ned Smither said during the ribbon cutting ceremony.
Powhatan Board of Supervisors Chairman Mike Byerly, who represents District 3, pointed out a large number of people participated in making this fitness room a reality. He said it is indicative of the prevailing spirit in Powhatan, where “you come together, you work together, and when things are tough, you reach out and put your arm around each other and grasp and say let’s go forward.”
Byerly noted that the gym could not only help with the physical fitness of employees and fire and rescue volunteers but their mental states as well.
“It is going to offer a great opportunity to help the mental health aspects of people who are in pretty difficult situations – our first responders – who go out and see things that not the average citizen sees,” he said. “It gives them the opportunity to get out and release some of that stress and be able to communicate in a way that is maybe just internal to them. That is a big positive for the county and for them because they are the people that show up when we need something – not when we want something but we need something.”
Supervisors Steve McClung, District 2, and Karin Carmack, District 5, also attended the ribbon cutting.
Powhatan Fire and Rescue Chief Phil Warner said after the ribbon cutting that the fitness room is a great opportunity for his staff and volunteers to have the ability to come in on shift or off-shift to work out.
Sheriff Brad Nunnally said he is happy with the gym and gives credit to Nolan for coming to him and Warner to talk about the need for a physical fitness program for local first responders.
“Phil and I both were happy to support him, and he put all this together and then got the county involved and ended up making it something that all the county employees could benefit from,” Nunnally said. “It will be nice, too, as the county is getting larger, we don’t always know each other as well as we used to, so this is going to be a place for other employees from different departments and offices to come together, get to know one another, workout and hopefully improve their lifestyles.”
Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.