University City

Charlotte gift works out well for Pineville fire department


Members of the Pineville Volunteer Fire Department now have on-site access to some professional workout equipment, thanks to the community spirit of a fitness chain.

Last fall’s closing of the Blast Fitness (formerly Bally Total Fitness) on Pineville-Matthews Road, less than a mile east of Carolina Place Mall, left the company with a room full of equipment ranging from elliptical machines to free weights.

“We had a choice of shipping the equipment back up to Boston, or keeping it and donating it to a good cause,” said Blast facilities engineer Wayne Stewart. “And what better cause than the fire department?”

Stewart, of Mount Holly, contacted the department in mid-June and worked with Mike Gerin, an assistant fire chief, to coordinate delivery of the equipment.

Within a couple of weeks, fire volunteers were pumping iron and abs-crunching at the back of the building.

“We’re just so blessed that Wayne chose us,” said Gerin, whose department averages about 50 members. “The unfortunate thing for us is that with budget cuts and all that, money is tight. So when people like Wayne donate stuff like this, that’s fortunate.

“In the fire service, physical fitness is important and so is the health of firemen. Sometimes you just can’t buy stuff like this because it’s not in the budget.”

Gerin said more equipment is coming “just as soon as we can figure out a place to put it. It’s a good problem to have.”

Stewart, who delivered the equipment, said some of it originally went to different sites, including to Blast’s Central Avenue location. Two Bally clubs in Charlotte were sold to Blast in May 2012.

He said it was interesting how some of the equipment is now back in the town where it was used for many years, after a stop in-between.

“The weird part about all of this is, we had so much equipment (at the Central Avenue location) after taking it there that the fire marshal said, ‘You can’t have all of this equipment, that you’re going to have to rearrange and move some of it out.’

“That’s when I thought about the fire department in Pineville – because they help people and I just thought it would be a good cause.”

Stewart said it’s hard to assess the value of the equipment due to varying ages. He estimated about $5,000: “The abs machines alone were worth a couple thousand when brand-new,” he said.

Gerin has already struck up a friendship with Stewart. “It’s a good feeling to know that there are people like Wayne who appreciate what we do and want to be able to help,” he said.