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A bricklayer works on the exterior of the Bertha Area Wellness Center, which will open in March.

TCHC to open Bertha wellness center

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Every time she wants to work out, Sami Wojtowicz hops in her car for a 25-mile round trip to Snap Fitness in Wadena.

Not for long. On March 15, Tri-County Health Care will open the Bertha Area Wellness Center next to its clinic here in town.

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"I can just go there on my way to work and back," Wojtowicz said. "I think a lot of us here in town are excited. I think a lot of us are going to use it."

With an approximately $100,000 grant from the Maslowski Charitable Trust, TCHC has remodeled its old clinic into a 24-hour fitness destination for northern Todd County. Members will be able to access the facility's assisted weight machines, cardio equipment and Internet-based fitness programs 24 hours a day.

"We picked out equipment that would target all of your muscle groups so you can work out every part of your body," said Rachel Amiot, the Bertha Area Wellness Center coordinator.

Mary Maslowski, who's in charge of distributing her parents' trust, lives in Bertha. She spearheaded the project to give people in the economically challenged community a place to get - and stay - healthy.

"It all started from her vision and her gift," said Bertha resident Kathy Kleen, TCHC chief nursing officer.

Kleen led an advisory committee, made up of business, city, school and other Bertha leaders, which served as a sounding board for the project.

The University of Wisconsin's Population Health Institute ranks Todd County as the 57th healthiest of Minnesota's 87 counties.

Part of the problem, Amiot said, is rural residents don't have a convenient place to workout. The school offers a weekly open gym, but the weight room is reserved for athletes.

"We have a lot of people who do not have access," Amiot said.

Russ VanDenhueval, whose many roles in Bertha include school board member and co-director of the fire department, said he's looking forward to having a place to workout that's within blocks of both his work and home.

"I'm fairly busy, but I am going to try to make time to become healthier," he said.

The facility isn't just for Bertha residents, Kleen said, but for the surrounding communities, too.

""That's why we put the word area in the name."

Amiot said she work hard to make membership rates affordable.

An individual pass will cost $30 per month. That's less than the $33 Wojtowicz shells out monthly to Snap Fitness.

Families will pay $35 a month (up to three with additional members $5 each) and seniors will be charged $25. There are discounts for group memberships and for those paying for six months or a year at a time.

Besides the standard exercise equipment, the wellness center will have Fitness on Demand, which will allow members to choose from 120 different online classes, from Zumba to Body Pump, any time they want.

A virtual instructor will teach classes on a 70-inch screen.

"This is a way to give variety and levels of classes to many different folks," Kleen said, noting in-person instruction would be cost prohibitive and provide less flexibility.

Amiot will be at the wellness center Tuesday and Friday mornings, Thursday afternoons and several Saturday mornings a month to explain how to use equipment and to guide members on a more comprehensive wellness path.

"Improving your overall wellness is a very positive thing and it helps with more than the physical aspect," she said. "It's mind, body and soul."

TCHC plans to eventually offer physical therapy and massage therapy at the site, but the two rooms remodeled for those purposes will be locked for now.

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