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Nonprofit gym receives $600K federal grant

FARMINGTON – A Farmington gym has received a substantial federal grant that it hopes to use to stimulate jobs and businesses in the fitness industry.

The $600,000 grant comes from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Community and Economic Development program.

Gym Lou’s 24-hour fitness center, located at 416 W. Broadway St., is a nonprofit operated by Capacity Builders Inc., or CBI, which applied for the grant. Within the next few months, Gym Lou’s plans to use the money to train 10 former student athletes a year with the eventual goal of turning them into small-business owners who can then expand fitness businesses throughout the region.

Deborah Montgomery, founder and vice president of CBI, said she originally started the gym for her own personal use. But as cost of running the gym became prohibitive, she decided about a year ago to donate it to CBI to use as a nonprofit gym.

Profits from the gym go back to CBI, a Four Corners-based economic development agency whose mission is to create jobs and innovative economic development opportunities for Native Americans and disenfranchised residents. The organization also works to prevent teen pregnancy and drug abuse through education and outreach.

“This is one of the only nonprofit gyms in the state, and every dollar from the gym goes back into teen pregnancy and drug prevention programs,” Montgomery said.

Gym Lou’s has started searching for high school graduates interested in going into the fitness field. Students accepted into the program, which is called Train 10, will receive six months of training to receive their certified personal trainer licenses, and they will also receive training in how to run a fitness business.

Their trainer exam fee will be covered, and they will receive an apprenticeship salary. At the end of the training session, the hope is that graduates will start their own businesses in areas that are underserved by the fitness industry, such as the Navajo Nation.

“By then, the students will have built up their own clientele and can begin to do fitness training in other areas,” said Montgomery, adding that during the training session, apprentices will provide free fitness training to Gym Lou’s clients.

A portion of the federal grant will also cover Gym Lou’s expansion from 3,300 square feet to 6,500 square feet.

The gym’s manager, Asli Basegmez, will serve as coordinator of the grant funds. Basegmez said before applying for the grant, she and other CBI representatives visited reservation chapter houses, as well as other low-income areas, to talk to students who may not go to college but are interested in fitness.