Urban Perform might look like your run-of-the-mill gym on the inside: Treadmills, free weights, that encouraging spin class instructor pumping up her students. But look a little closer and you’ll find it’s actually a nonprofit, bringing equipment and instruction to the under-served residents of English Avenue, Vine City, and Washington Park neighborhoods. Urban Perform’s Founder and Executive Director Laura Pritchard-Compton tells us more in this week’s Friday Five.
The term “nonprofit gym” might cause some confused head scratches. How did Urban Perform get started?
Urban Perform (UP) started because English Avenue residents wanted a safe place for their families to exercise. In 2012, UP built a gym space in the warehouse of New Life Covenant Church and our initial programs focused on youth. Within a few months, we expanded to include adult programming and group fitness classes. Our classes continued to grow and we needed to expand our services. Earlier this year, support from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation and the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation gave us the capital to turn an abandoned gas station into a fitness center. On March 1, we opened our doors at 678 Joseph E. Boone Boulevard. We offer open gym time as well as $2 group classes including Zumba, yoga, circuit training, spin, and more.
We’ve heard of “food deserts” but what’s a “fitness desert”?
Like a food desert highlights a lack of access to quality food, a fitness desert is an area that is both low-income and has low access to gyms or fitness services in the surrounding area. While we know that Buckhead has 32 fitness centers, Midtown has 13, and Downtown Atlanta has nine, there are other areas of Atlanta that have little or no access to fitness. In English Avenue, Vine City, and Washington Park, Urban Perform is the only full-service fitness center. We are currently working with Georgia Tech students to identify where additional fitness deserts exist.
What has the reaction been from the community?
The response from the community has been incredible. We are thanked daily by residents for opening our doors. We set a one-year goal to serve 400 residents, and we reached that goal in just five months! One of our youth members competed in her very first triathlon in the fall of 2013. After crossing the finish line, her mom remarked, “You are the first person in our family to accomplish something so big!” The next season, she brought her three siblings to train and compete with her. The third season, she also brought her cousins. Now the entire family has accomplished something so big! That’s just one example of the positive ripple effect that fitness can bring to individuals, families, and communities.
We’ve all heard those obesity statistics on the news. Urban Perform is fighting the good fight. What’s next?
We are dedicated to creating accessible and affordable fitness in under-served communities. Not everyone can make it to our physical gym, but everyone needs affordable exercise. There is a growing need for exercise opportunities at schools, in after-school programs, and at churches and apartment complexes. In order to make exercise accessible and affordable, we are looking at ways to go mobile.
Y’all are doing great work. For real. What does Urban Perform need? How can Atlantans help?
We would love to involve more Atlantans in our mission. There are three main ways to get involved with us:
Give. Your donations help us keep our costs affordable. As little as $15 can help change a life through exercise. You can donate online. Our low prices are only possible because of the generosity of others. Individual donors, grants, and fundraisers allow us to subsidize our low costs.
Volunteer. We rely on educated volunteers to teach classes and share their expertise in any field. We also have three new interns (undergrad or grad students in exercise science) each semester. To volunteer, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spread the word. Connect with us on social media and tell your friends about UP. Like us onFacebook, follow us on Twitter (@atlurbanperform) and Instagram (@urbanperformatl), and sign up for our e-newsletter.