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Whitefish Bay – What you see when you step inside the completely overhauled Habush Family Fitness Center is a thing of beauty.

A majestic wooden desk filled with smiling faces greets you.

Higher ceilings let in more natural light as you make your way to the state-of-the-art fitness floor after dropping off your children at the remodeled childcare area. Before or after working out, you can take a break in one of the new lounge rooms in the improved adults-only locker room area.

But as the center prepared for its reopening, Mark Shapiro said there is more meaning to all of these changes than what meets the eye. The center had a grand reopening tailgate party on Sunday, Sept. 11.

“From the moment you walk in the entrance, you know the whole experience has completely changed, but what you can’t see is how this investment is greater than the fitness center itself,” said Shapiro, who is the president and chief executive officer of the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center. “This is an investment in more than an inclusive community wellness center. This is an investment in the after-school programs we run and the programs we do for students with special needs and the food pantry we run on 29th and Centet. This is an investment in our community.”

Renovations amounting to almost $1 million have been underway for about a year and include significant improvements to the fitness floor, child care center and locker rooms.

“We made this investment in order to meet our current and potential members’ expectations, who deserve the best facility we can provide. We invested in the very future they asked of us, and are very pleased with the results,” said JCC Board Chair Jamie Miller. “The investment highlights our commitment to being a destination for inclusive community wellness.”

Plans began for what Shapiro referred to as a “membership investment” more than 18 months ago in an effort to offer the best experience possible to visitors and members of the JCC.

Rates will not be increased as a result of the improvements, Shapiro said, and everything was completed with only two days of interrupted service.

“At JCC, we partner to build a healthier Milwaukee, and there has never been a better time to have that as a priority,” Shapiro said. “When you’re paying a monthly fee to run on our treadmills, you’re investing in yourself, but you’re also investing in everything we do at JCC.”

The food pantry the center runs feeds as many as 285 families a week and hundreds of young adults and children are serviced through a variety of JCC programs.

“We’re not just state-of-the-art, we’re state of the heart,” Shapiro said. “And not just your heart, but the heart of the community as a whole.”

These are the largest improvements to the fitness center since the overhaul of the building it’s housed in back in 2008.

The new fitness floor integrates strength and free weight training and features all new equipment. Embracing the importance of interaction, the child care area was rebuilt to provide a landscape for one-on-one playtime, arts and crafts and other activities.

New tile everywhere completes the new locker room areas, where new showers and gathering places were also added.

“Eight years ago, there were only one fifth of the fitness options there are today in the area,” Shapiro said. “So we want to stay modern and offer what the community is looking for while also helping them embrace wellness from the standpoint that they are doing something for themselves but also for their neighbors.”

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