Club Insider

COVID-19 – The Coronavirus Crisis: Community

Posted: May 5, 2020 in Chains, Independents

April 2020 Edition of Club InsiderApril 2020 Edition of Club Insider

By: Justin Cates

As a supplement to our Special Edition Two-Part Cover Story on COVID-19, the Coronavirus Crisis (Click Here to Read Part I), Club Insider presents the following participant responses, as well as some inspiring stories about Communities around the country and what some club companies are doing to provide needed support to those communities. In this supplement, you will hear from Greta Wagner, Mike Alpert, Jim Worthington and Linda Mitchell, Larry Conner, Rich Nelsen, Phil Wendel and Joe Cirulli. Next week, closing out our primary pandemic coverage, we will be presenting Part II of our Special Edition Cover Story on COVID-19, focusing on the Re-Opening. Stay tuned, and stay safe and healthy!

Participant Reponses

Chelsea Piers Connecticut

Greta WagnerGreta Wagner

Greta Wagner, Executive Director/EVP

Q – What has been the club’s communication with the public on the website, social media, etc.?
A – We immediately posted on social media, the website and let the media know to assist in reaching members and customers. We were one of the first clubs to close and felt that was important to get out to other clubs. It was a scary moment shutting our doors. We have only closed our doors in one other instance: After Hurricane Sandy when the storm shut most of the area’s businesses. That closure was only a month because of our dedicated team who came in to help us get back on our feet as soon as possible.

For examples of our social media communications and content, our Instagram accounts that are relevant to our membership businesses are @chelseapiersfitness and @chelseapiersct. Content is also shared on our Facebook and Twitter accounts, but Instagram has proven to have the highest level of engagement by far.

For examples of our external facing communications, visit and

Q – Any communication or relationship to the club’s local community?
A – We let all the local elected officials offices know about our closure.

The Claremont Club

Mike AlpertMike Alpert

Mike Alpert, President/CEO

Q – What has been the club’s communication with the public on the website, social media, etc.?
A – Our staff have been really wonderful in using social media to post blogs, videos and sharing with their groups.

Q – Any communication or relationship to the club’s local community?
A – We prefer to let the local community hear about what we are doing through our members and staff. The word does get around.

Newtown Athletic Club

Jim WorthingtonJim Worthington

Jim Worthington, Owner

Linda Mitchell, Director of Public and Government Relations

Q – What has been the club’s communication with the public on the website, social media, etc.?
AJim Worthington, NAC Owner, as a member of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition, aligned our club and IHRSA with the #TogetherApart campaign that the Council initiated. This national movement has generated millions of shared experiences on social media allowing people to illustrate at-home activities to stay healthy and connected.

Linda MitchellLinda Mitchell

Q – Any communication or relationship to the club’s local community?
A – Yes, we offer live workout classes, including strength, barre, yoga, meditation, PE Classes + Workouts. We have also provided virtual lunches and learnings to employers through ZOOM, driving members of the community to our Youtube channel for much of this content.

Stone Creek Club & Spa

Larry ConnerLarry Conner

Larry Conner, General Manager

Q – What has been the club’s communication with the public on the website, social media, etc.?
A – Any emailed communication to members is cross-posted to our website, so it is available for the public to see. It’s the same for our Facebook posts, so anyone on our page can see the tips we’re posting and the videos we’ve done of our group fitness instructors and personal trainers.

Q – Any communication or relationship to the club’s local community?
A – Our leadership team is in constant contact with fellow club operators in our area (as well as operators in our REX Roundtable groups); health care providers and facilities; local government officials; and first responders. Our goal is to stay up to date on the latest information on this ever-changing situation and to offer a lending hand and assistance to them in any way we can.

VASA Fitness

Rich NelsenRich Nelsen

Rich Nelsen, CEO

Q – What has been the club’s communication with the public on the website, social media, etc.?
A – VASA has been very proactive across our social media channels during our closure. On March 20, we launched a partnership with Openfit (by Beachbody) where our members get a 30-day free subscription, and on March 30, our own V Fit workouts (HIIT, Resistance and Stretch & Recovery) went live on our website. We are promoting these to our members via email and social media and encourage them to share with family and friends.

Q – Any communication or relationship to the club’s local community?
A – N/A

ACAC Fitness Centers

Phil WendelPhil Wendel

Phil Wendel, Owner

To close the Participant Responses portion of this Cover Story Supplement, I present these thoughts from Phil Wendel, Owner of ACAC Fitness Centers. Phil writes:

Here’s a great piece of positivity:

Associated Press: ‘And, as cases skyrocket in the U.S. and Europe, it’s becoming more clear that how healthy you were before the pandemic began plays a key role in how you fare regardless of how old you are.’

My Takeaway: Hopefully, most of us can and will provide a welcome mat for the 200,000,000 Americans who are not club members now. Our industry called this group the ‘interested deconditioned.’ I’m betting that many will be at our doors when this pandemic ends. A crisis breeds opportunity\; perhaps our industry can lead in addressing many of America’s health care ills.

Inspiring Stories

The following are some inspiring stories about club organizations and what they are doing to make a difference in their communities.

Newtown Athletic Club Becomes a Field Facility for Local Hospitals During the COVID-19 Crisis

Newtown Athletic Club Becomes a Field Facility for Local Hospitals During the COVID-19 CrisisNewtown Athletic Club Becomes a Field Facility for Local Hospitals During the COVID-19 Crisis

NEWTOWN, PA – In March, the Newtown Athletic Club (NAC) Owner, Jim Worthington, reached out to local, state and federal government to donate NAC facilities and the Newtown Sports Training Center for any emergency use due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Bucks County Emergency Services accepted the offer, and the NAC prepared the space for 300+ beds for overflow hospital needs. The space was ready for patients on Friday, April 10.

As stated by NAC Owner, Jim Worthington, “Since 1978, the NAC has stood as a staple and cornerstone of the community during some of our nation’s most difficult and trying times. This hard time is no different; it is our privilege to be able to contribute and support our community in this small way.”

The Newtown Sports Training Center is a 40,000 square-foot indoor fieldhouse designed for sports activities and special events such as large celebrations, exhibitions, car shows and much more. As a large open indoor space, it is perfectly suited to house this type of temporary emergency service. Having this overflow space available so close to area hospitals is critical to dealing effectively with the potential community need during this time.

Linda Mitchell, Director of Public Relations and a 39-year NAC employee, explained, “After 42 years of service to the community, we have never faced a situation such as this, and we are grateful to have the resources to support our community and country.”

Bucks County Chair of Commissioners, Diane Marseglia, has expressed on behalf of all the commissioners and the county her gratitude for this gesture of support.

The Alaska Club & Children’s Lunchbox

The Alaska Club and Children's LunchboxThe Alaska Club and Children’s Lunchbox

ALASKA – With school not in session and a record increase in unemployment, the need to feed hungry kids continues to grow. More and more families who are already on the edge, or barely making it, will struggle.

The Alaska Club is getting involved by packing thousands of meal boxes, providing delivery service to the pantry and matching up to $10,000 in donations.

Hunker Down and Step Up – Children’s Lunchbox has three distribution sites for prepared meals for kids and their families (dinners and a snack) as well as pantry pack boxes. The pantry pack boxes provide a shelf stable meal for a family of four. We have both breakfast and lunch/dinner boxes.

Feed a Family of Four for $10 – With the possible reality that school will not resume until August, we anticipate needing 50,000 pantry packs to help stabilize and feed families. Each pack costs about $10. We can give the families we serve a little peace of mind until school resumes, and even thereafter. Right now, we are taking it one week at a time because of the lack of committed resources.

Step Up Twice As Far – With The Alaska Club’s match, we will feed twice as many families. Imagine not knowing if, next week, you’ll be able to get a pantry pack to feed your family? It’s critical in these uncertain times that we can reassure folks our community is there for them… that Children’s Lunchbox is there for them. We will have food for your kids. We promise!

Whether it is a record setting earthquake or a global pandemic, Alaskans are known for taking care of each other.

View the full story by Denali Media Productions & KTVA at

ClubCorp Partners with American Red Cross and Other Regional Blood Donation Organizations to Encourage Blood Donations


DALLAS, TX – ClubCorp – The World Leader in Private Clubs – announces a new partnership with the American Red Cross and other regional blood donation organizations, hosting member blood drives in over 50 clubs, in 14 states across the country, and the list is growing. The Red Cross needs the help of blood donors to maintain a sufficient blood supply for the weeks and months to come. The efforts are just one of several ways ClubCorp and its members are giving back to their communities during the Coronavirus crisis.

“Serving our communities is one of ClubCorp’s core values and our members are at the heart of our ability to give back,” said David Pillsbury, ClubCorp CEO. “As community leaders, so many of our members have asked how their clubs can give back and support those in need during this difficult time. We are proud to host these blood drives – considered an essential community service right now – and give our members every opportunity to help even as they adhere to stay-at-home mandates. Knowing they are going through their own adversity yet are so concerned about giving back speaks volumes to their character and generosity.”

“Everyone has the ability to help save a life through the donation of blood,” said Dr. Ram Srinivasan, an Intensive Care Physician and member at Belmont Country Club in Ashburn, Virginia. “Donating blood at this time is safe and very much needed, whether for patients of accidents, cancer or chronic illness.”

“During this uncertain time, we encourage individuals to keep scheduled blood donation appointments and to make new blood donation appointments for the weeks ahead to ensure a stable supply throughout this pandemic,” said Kamenna Lee, vice president, Biomedical Marketing at the American Red Cross.

To find a ClubCorp sponsored blood drive near you visit

Beyond the member blood drives, ClubCorp also recently created a Community Relations Committee, which is identifying ways clubs, their employees and members can provide positive support to local communities. One of its first initiatives provides a weekly complimentary meal program for the company’s furloughed employees and their families.

Concept2 Provides Masks for Essential Workers in the Community

Concept2 Provides Masks for Essential Workers in the CommunityConcept2 Provides Masks for Essential Workers in the Community

MORRISVILLE, VT – As the coronavirus hit Vermont, Concept2 did several things. First, we made a rapid transition to working from home, for all staff who could do it. Our IT team made sure people had the phone connections and remote access they would need to do this. A few essential people stayed at the building to keep it safe, and to maintain the minimum level of receiving and shipping to prevent things from backing up.

Not long after we did this, our Governor issued an official “Stay at Home, Stay Safe” order, which confirmed the steps we had taken. That order, which also required non-essential businesses to shut down, has since been extended, so production is still on hold.

The next thing that came to mind was “How can Concept2 help?” We quickly realized that the strongest assets we could bring to the problem might be our reliable parts suppliers in Asia and our experienced shipping logistics contacts here in the US. For many years, we have sourced certain erg components in Asia, although we continue to assemble machines in the US, and many of our parts are manufactured right here in Vermont.

Trevor Braun, one of our engineers, began reaching out to health providers in our area to get a sense of their needs. He also connected with the State of Vermont to get a sense of the overall scale of the project.

When we started talking with our contacts in Asia and learned that PPE was available, we immediately placed an order of 500,000 three-layer face masks. Our goal for these masks was to get them here as quickly as possible and provide them free of charge to the essential workers in our area. These essential workers include health care providers, first responders, and employees at grocery stores, food shelves, senior centers, childcare centers and others. We’re happy to report that the masks have arrived and we have started distributing them.

Concept2 also collaborated with the State of Vermont to bring a large quantity of masks, of a couple different varieties, to health workers in the state. After assisting the state with their initial order, we have passed along our contacts and knowledge so that they can continue these supply relationships as needed.

In addition, we have been working with another Vermont-based organization, Generator, to expand their capacity for making plastic face shields. We took their design to a firm that molds plastic parts in Taiwan, and they were able to develop mass manufacturing capability in just a couple of weeks. We continue to be impressed with (and thankful for) the speed at which our long-time contacts are responding, and the high quality of work they are doing.

Dealing with a crisis of this size and nature requires broad collaboration, and a great deal of mutual respect. For many individuals, the best way to help is to just stay home. It may feel like you’re not doing anything, but your willingness to cooperate and follow your state’s guidance is critically important. As the individual members of the Concept2 team, this is what we are doing. As a company, with valuable contacts and channels, it’s important to help. We are happy to be able to do this.

A Letter From Joe Cirulli to His Members

Joe CirulliJoe Cirulli

To close out the Inspiring Stories portion of this Cover Story Supplement, I once again present a letter that Joe Cirulli, Owner of Gainesville Health and Fitness, wrote to his members and provided to them personally via video. Once again, I am doing this for two reasons:

  1. 1. To reiterate how important your club facility is to your members and your community, maybe even more important than you know.
  2. 2. INSPIRATION from one of the best in the business. We all need hope right now. Hope leads to strength. And, strength can help anyone persevere anything.

Joe Cirulli Writes (View the Video):

First of all, I want to thank all the members of Gainesville Health and Fitness for their graciousness and support during this trying time. We know many people have questions about their future that no one can answer at this time, and that kind of stress can cause people to get short tempered… but not you.

And, I know that to be a fact… Our Office team is answering your calls and emails every day. And, with the number of messages they’re receiving, they’re working overtime to address and follow up on each and every one of them. When I’m with them, I ask how their doing, and they tell me over and over again how great you all are. I can’t thank you enough. They actually look forward to the next call. And, I can feel good knowing they want to do that.

The most valuable asset of our company is not buildings or equipment; it’s all of them, and I couldn’t be prouder of them or you.

The facilities, though, have been incredibly maintained by another group of dedicated staff. We want to be ready to open up the moment we’re given the word… And, we want everything to work perfectly for you.

I have told people all over the world that I would put my employees up against the best companies in the world, and I have told club owners across the globe that we have the best members, too; these last two weeks have absolutely proved it.

I know most of you care tremendously about our staff, and the comments from thousands of you can bring tears to your eyes… Messages like, “Keep billing me so you can continue to pay your staff. I want to see them when we’re open.” I can’t tell you enough times what that means to all of us. And, we will keep paying them!

But, to those of you in a tougher financial position, the staff will just as graciously freeze your dues and extend your memberships, too. The fortunate thing is Gainesville Health and Fitness started in Gainesville over 40 years ago. We grew up in Gainesville, and we can address every issue with every member. And, we are as quickly as we possibly can. We’re answering phone calls, returning messages and emails. So, if you have already contacted us, you will get a response. As I said earlier, we have a full team working on addressing all members.

Years ago, I had a large group of health club owners from around the country meeting at the club. I asked them to walk around the club and introduce themselves to both members and staff and ask them anything they’d like to learn about our company. I’ll never forget the comment by a health club owner out of Chicago when he said, “I’ve never heard anything like this… The connection between your members and staff borders on love.” It seems to me that border has been crossed. Thank you again.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve been in webinars talking to health club owners across the world. And, overall, they are all looking forward to the day they can reopen, and like many people, they have a fear of what the future will be like. I have no fear! I expect a great future! Will some people be extremely concerned about germs? Sure! But, I know that the germs we all face every day only make us stronger.

But, I also want you to know we have our centers ready from every perspective of cleanliness, and keeping the facilities sanitized will always be a priority. But fear… No! I think it’s very important to always put life into perspective… Are there times that can scare a person? Sure! But, I know we can’t live our life scared.

My father was a Naval Officer who fought in World War II. I remember when he was being interviewed for the National Archives. The woman asked, “Were you ever afraid of dying?” Immediately, he said, “Yes.” She asked when, and I had to smile when I heard him say, “Whenever a bomb went off!!!” I’m assuming that was quite regularly.

But, like him, and so many of his generation, they grew stronger and stronger over time. Because I know that Hope brought him through… The hope of seeing my mother and his parents again. The hope of coming home to a stronger America with a bright future.

I have always drawn strength from my father. And, an incredible optimism from my mother. And, a dogged ability to keep going no matter what we face from my grandparents. They all thrived on hope, and all lived a fulfilled life.

Remember to draw strength from the people in your life who have inspired you! If you’ve never read the book, Mans Search for Meaning, by Victor Frankel, read it. You’ll learn the story of what kept people alive while in the Nazi Prison Camps. I’ll give you a clue… It’s called Hope!

I try to keep things in perspective. When I first started in the health club industry, I worked for six health club companies that went bankrupt. I lived in closed down buildings, in health clubs that were open and in my car. I vividly remember getting down to my last 12 cents, but I never gave up hope because I knew what I was going through was only a trial to see if I could move to something better. And, I knew I would.

I know that, if I hadn’t had the right attitude, I wouldn’t be talking to you today. I wouldn’t be part of a team with many of the greatest people I could ever know.

I always looked for inspiration in books and tapes, and I filled my mind with life’s possibilities. I know I was fortunate to find a book in a drawer called, The Power of Positive Thinking, which led be to a lifetime of finding everything inspiring in life. I guarantee it beats living a life in fear. And, I know you do, too, or you would never be listening.

So, keep exercising. Don’t get out of the habit, and do it at the time you would normally come to the centers. Eat properly, drink lots of water, get the right amount of sleep… Oh yea, wash your hands, and don’t touch your face.

But, most importantly, focus on all the great things in your life, and we’ll make it through this just as past generations like our parents and grandparents have… In the end, we’ll be better than we ever have been.

Thank you! Hope to see everyone soon. Stay Strong!!!

• • •

Thank you to Greta Wagner, Mike Alpert, Jim Worthington and Linda Mitchell, Larry Conner, Rich Nelsen, Phil Wendel and Joe Cirulli for their contributions to this cover story supplement. Whomever you are, wherever you are, thank you for reading, and thank you for what you are doing to bring your club through these times… for your staff… for your members… for you. We extend our best wishes to you, your family, your staff and your club members.

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