Community Wellness Center steadies financial footing by cutting schedule back to 3 days per week

LACONIA — Last month the Community Wellness Center, a self-supporting affiliate of LRGHealthcare, reduced its schedule from five days to three days a week, a move which has placed the facility once threatened with closure and stressed by recession on a sound financial footing.
Janine Sutcliffe, director of cardio-pulmonary rehabilitation at LRGHealthcare, who oversees the center and its sister facility, the Winnipesaukee Wellness Center in Moultonborough, said that the center has "felt the impact of the recession and loss of members" while its fitness programming faces competition from Planet Fitness, which charges a low montly membership fee.
The center, which operates on an annual budget of approximately $126,000, is funded by initiation fees of $60 and membership fees of $50 a month supplemented by fundraising efforts and private donors.
Along with Maggie Rushbrook, who manages the center, it is staffed by one nurse and one specialist. Noting that the center in Moultonborough operated three days a week, Rushbrook tallied attendance and found that on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between as few as 130 and as many as 147 members visited the center while on Tuesdays and Thursdays the numbers shrank to between 40 and 45. "Those days were way too much," Rushbrook said. "We went to three days a week and problem solved."
Sutcliffe said that Planet Fitness, which offers memberships for $1 down and $10 a month, represents a competitive challenge. However, at the center patients are seen regularly and monitored closely and can be referred to a physician immediately if necessary.
"We have no intention at all of closing or moving," Sutcliffe insisted. "On the contrary, we expect our membership to grow as the population ages."
The Community Wellness Center is located in the huge Normandin Square Apartments building at Busy Corner.