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FirstHealth of the Carolinas
Working together to keep a town healthy By Erica Stacy

Working together

“Our community is special,” says Mayor Earl Poplin. “We have access to facilities that few towns our size are able to provide. Our people are determined to make this a great place to live, and they aren’t afraid to work hard and be creative in order to make big things happen.”

Big things like a fitness center.

Run by the people of Mt. Gilead for the people of Mt. Gilead. With a little help from their friends at FirstHealth of the Carolinas.

Ron Kincaid
Mt. Gilead resident Ron Kincaid (foreground) was a driving force in the collaboration with FirstHealth of the Carolinas to save the town’s fitness center.

The fitness center, located in a FirstHealth-owned facility, changed management several times after its opening in the mid-1990s and finally closed in the fall of 2008. A group of concerned Mt. Gilead residents, spearheaded by Ron Kincaid, came together to try to find a way to re-open the facility.

Kincaid approached Montgomery Memorial Hospital President Kerry Hensley with an idea.

“We wanted to re-open the fitness center for our community,” Kincaid says. “I’ve had a heart attack. I understand all too well the importance of exercise. Having a center available locally would improve the quality of life and health in our community.”

FirstHealth’s administration agreed.

Working together“FirstHealth’s success as a health care organization is based on the concept of ‘working together’,” says Hensley. “That has been especially true of our relationships with the communities we serve—relationships that are geared toward improving a community’s health and well-being. Participating in a local partnership to re-open the Mt. Gilead fitness center seemed like a perfect opportunity to do just that.”

Under a special arrangement, FirstHealth leases the center, which also houses a FirstHealth EMS base, and the exercise equipment to the Town of Mt. Gilead for $1 a year. Members of the volunteer committee that worked to re-open the center raised enough money to pay for the first year’s utilities. They also maintain the equipment, facility and grounds.

“It’s a win-win for everyone,” says Kincaid.

To date, the center, which re-opened in June 2009, has 80 paid members. Area businesses and industries have encouraged membership, offering incentives to their employees.

“We’re tickled pink,” Kincaid says. “We couldn’t have asked for more support from FirstHealth. Our goal is to sustain the fitness center through membership fees. We’re working hard to keep the service affordable and to operate when it is most convenient for our residents. Our payback is making a difference for local families. You just can’t put a price on good health.”