A new partnership at the Austintown Senior Center has brought new services to members. The Classroom Fitness Center of Austintown, has moved into the center under an agreement to provide fitness programs to seniors free of charge.
In a win-win situation, The Classroom Fitness Center that used to be located on Mahoning Avenue, moved into a storage room at the Senior Center. Besides providing free services to seniors, the fitness center is also paying a sublease on the space.
"We rent the west end of the building off the township," said Austintown Senior Center Director Jim Henshaw. "This sublease helps us offset our cost."
Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Fitness instructor Debbie Caggiano trains members of the Austintown Senior Center as part of a new partnership. Seniors taking advantage of the free workouts last Thursday were, in front at left, Cookie Chepke and to the right of Caggiano, Susie “Q” Wilhelm. In back are Mary Baeshore, Kay Lavelle and Gloria Habib.
Caggiano started her business to help herself. The 1990 Fitch graduate married and had children. After giving birth, she said she didn't like what was happening to her body and she struggled with her body image.
"I am a recovering anorexic," Caggiano said. "At one time I weighed 98 pounds, was sick all the time and was losing my hair."
Thanks to family, friends and her husband, Caggiano got a good look at her path of destruction. Her family doctor told her she had no muscle tone and that she was killing herself. At that point, she decided to change her life and start eating and working toward a goal of health and fitness. That was more than 15 years ago and since that time she began studying proper fitness programs and eventually became certified in 19 different group and personal fitness venues as well as CPR.
As her life improved, she realized how important it is to keep fit, eat right, and do it without medication. She decided to bring what she had learned to others by opening a studio.
At the start of 2012, Caggiano said she needed more space to grow and she began looking around Austintown.
"I started looking in January," she said. "I looked at four locations, but none of them worked out."
While she was looking, she continued running her business and donated her time to help members at the Senior Center, offering free classes for anyone wishing to take them.
She saw the big storage room at the Center and it sparked an idea.
"She approached me with the idea of moving into the Senior Center," Henshaw said.
A deal was worked out to allow her to lease the property at one-fourth what she was paying at the Mahoning Avenue location. Caggiano cleared the large storage room, painted it and finished the decor to set up a training room.
"I painted it red and blue for the Falcon colors," Caggiano said. "It is all about Austintown."
Once that room was up and running, Caggiano moved her equipment into the Senior Center, then learned of another connecting room that was for lease. She worked out a lease with the township to give her an outside entrance for The Classroom, which was finished last week with a new sidewalk.
Along with workouts, Caggiano provides drum classes for the mentally disabled, run from a nearby office. For the Senior Center, visitors now have a place to go and work out and keep fit and the township and the center have income.
"I think we came out with the better end of the deal," Henshaw said. "We now refer to Caggiano's room as the zero fat room."
Although Caggiano is paying the lease on the center's room, it is still being scheduled for art and dance classes for seniors.
"It is an active senior center," she said. "Those who come to the center love to stay active."