Schenectady County

JCC touts center’s healthy options

Swimming, snow cones and sizzling barbecued hot dogs were the rage Sunday at the Schenectady Jewish

Swimming, snow cones and sizzling barbecued hot dogs were the rage Sunday at the Schenectady Jewish Community Center.

The center on Balltown Road held its summer-themed “Mid-Winter Summer Blowout” to showcase its programs.

“We decided unilaterally that winter is over and summer has officially started,” said JCC Executive Director Mark Weintraub.

In keeping with the theme, a giant stuffed bear was lounging on a beach chair as people walked into the center. There were activities in different rooms to give people a taste of what the center has to offer. Nutritionist Cameron Varano was talking to children and adults about healthy lifestyle habits. The center offers an eight-week course on a lifestyle challenge program that includes dietary counseling and personal training sessions.

Varano said steps to a healthier lifestyle can be simple, such as vowing to watch 30 minutes less of television, walking around the block daily, drinking more water, eating smaller portions and eating meals more slowly.

“Try to put your fork down between each bite,” she said.

Varano is one of three lifestyle coaches at the center. The course is $750 for members and $900 for nonmembers.

Bruce Lawton of Niskayuna was among the people milling about the center. “It was a cold day and there were snacks for the kids and play events,” he said.

His 10-year-old daughter Adriana and her 9-year-old friend Alex Chiusano, also of Niskayuna, were playing a game where they had to spin a wheel and answer nutrition and fitness questions. They got most of the answers right, Lawton said.

Adriana said that it is not true that you have to wait one hour after eating to go swimming.

Alexa Chiusano, 9, of Niskayuna, said she loves swimming and uses the facility.

All ages from toddlers to seniors use the five-lane pool, according to Weintraub.

“It’s really a gem of the community,” he said.

Children also got some physical activity in by jumping around in the bounce house or dancing to music provided by a disc jockey.

Ellen Carpenter, early childhood and youth services director, spoke out about the preschool and day care that the center offers.

“We believe children learn best through play. We’ve gotten very good feedback about how ready our children are for school,” she said.

There were also arts and crafts. Niskayuna brothers Jared and Brian Cooper, both 9, were trying their hand at coloring in a drawing using colored sand. Both said they regularly attend the center and take classes.

“They give you a choice every two months,” he said.

Brian particularly enjoyed the ceramics class. “It’s really cool,” he said.

In addition to the health and fitness and children’s program, the center also pays tribute to its Jewish heritage. It recently had a program in conjunction with Union College called the “Three Scribes.” A Jewish, Muslim and Christian calligrapher talked about the sacred writings and calligraphy as an art form in general.

Center officials stressed there is a 10 percent discount on membership if people join before the end of the month.

“Everybody here is greeted with a smile. We’re a welcoming community,” Weintraub said.

Betsy Ballard of Clifton Park said she had heard about Sunday’s event from a friend and thought it would be a good chance to see the Jewish Community Center with her sons Jack, 12, and Peter, 5 1⁄2.

“It’s a lovely facility,” she said.

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