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An Authentic Approach to Giving Back


As a health club, you are an extension of the community you reside in. At least that’s how Tate Metcalf, the owner of Sisters Athletic Club in Sisters, Oregon, sees it.

“When I started Sisters Athletic Club I made community outreach a major focus,” explained Metcalf. “Some clubs may feel that is counterintuitive to spend so much time, money and effort on things that don’t impact the membership directly. But I feel it is part of our ethos.”

Driven by this ethos, Sisters Athletic Club supports its community in a number of ways.

A great example is the Lifeskills program, which invites local students to shadow gym staff and learn work skills — primarily in housekeeping and how to interact with people.  In exchange they have access to the club’s facilities. “Beyond the shadowing and swimming, we hire some of the students at the end of their class,” said Metcalf.

A youth swim race at Sisters Athletic Club.

In addition, Sisters Athletic Club provides free swim lessons to disadvantaged students, as well as free memberships to some families. It works closely with organizations such as Family Access Network and Habitat for Humanity. In addition, it routinely hosts speakers, book signings and more that are free and open to the public.

“We take the approach of active engagement within the community more than actually writing checks,” said Metcalf. “While it may take more commitment, I think it has a bigger impact.”

These efforts have proven beneficial to Sisters Athletic Club as well. According to Metcalf, the club’s community outreach programs make it more visible — so much so it doesn’t have to spend any money on marketing.

As an added bonus, the community focus has provided staff with a deep sense of purpose. “There are many opportunities for the team to come together, work together and form a tight bond, while making a positive impact on our community,” added Metcalf.

This deep sense of purpose extends to the gym’s members. “I feel our members appreciate all we do and know we support many of their causes,” said Metcalf. “It provides an opportunity for the members to feel proud of their club and know we are in this business to make a positive impact on the whole community, not just our members.”

But of course, these benefits are only a side effect of Sisters Athletic Club’s ethos to support its community. The main driving factor for its charitable initiatives is an authentic mission to make a positive impact.

“While it makes business sense to be actively engaged in the community, it is also the morally correct thing to do,” said Metcalf. “We don’t promote all of the things we do for the community. I feel we take a more quiet approach so that it comes across authentic — which it is.”

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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