Community Builder: Columbia man turns diabetes diagnosis into wellness mission for others

Published: Jan. 30, 2019 at 7:47 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A Columbia man has turned a diabetes diagnosis into a health and wellness mission.

After changing his lifestyle and being cleared of diabetes, James Anderson has been affecting the lives of every person who walks into his fitness classes at the Drew Wellness Center for the last 5 years.

“His enthusiasm for fitness and wellness is just outstanding,” said Diane Betz, the fitness coordinator at Drew Wellness Center. “He’s really inspiring. As you can hear behind me, people love him.”

At 68 years-old Anderson leads several classes at Columbia’s Drew Wellness Center.
At 68 years-old Anderson leads several classes at Columbia’s Drew Wellness Center.

At 68 years-old, Anderson leads several classes at Columbia’s Drew Wellness Center and our cameras showed up for one of the “fan favorites.”

“The class is called “chair-robics,” said Anderson, who smiled at the play on words for the name of the aerobics class. “That's how you get them in.”

The military veteran counts like a drill sergeant but teaches his class like a master of spreading joy. The chairs make it possible for anyone of any ability to take part, but James is determined to show that getting fit can be fun at any age.

“So we may burst out into a song or dance, or anything to just keep people excited about the joys of getting fit,” added Anderson.

It’s that spirit that keeps class member Deborah Parks coming back.

“I think if it wasn’t for the energy, I probably would’ve stopped a long time ago. But he brings so much energy to it,” Parks said.

Parks says she believes proper health and wellness is so important for the community, and for that reason and so many more, she nominated Anderson as a Community Builder.

“Mr. James, I’m Elizabeth Burnett from Mungo Homes, and we are so inspired by what you’re doing here, and we want you to know you were recognized by people here in this class,” said Burnett with hard hat in hand. “You’re enriching the lives of the people in his class, but not only are you enriching their lives, you’re enriching our entire community. So, we have this hat here and we want to honor you with the Michael J Mungo Foundation Community Builder award.”

Burnett also told Anderson he would receive a $1,000 check to the charity of his choice, which was met by loud cheers from his class. He then proceeded to break out into song and dance like he does throughout his class.

“Look at me, I got a hat- $1000 dollars, that’s where it’s at!”

It was a moment that Mr. James and the entire class celebrated, and then they continued celebrating by doing what they would every other class— having fun while getting fit.

The Drew Wellness Center says classes are just $5 for walk-ins and membership rates are low as well. If you’d like more information, visit their website here.

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