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'Weight loss journey' is rooted in faith

Biggest Loser contest organizer Vera Paylor weighs Strawbridge United Methodist Church's contest participant Kim Jones at the final weigh-in Sept. 7.
Biggest Loser contest organizer Vera Paylor weighs Strawbridge United Methodist Church's contest participant Kim Jones at the final weigh-in Sept. 7. (Carrie Ann Knauer photo)

While churches often encourage fellowshipping over food — breaking bread together at potluck dinners and other bountiful meals — members of Strawbridge United Methodist Church in New Windsor spent the summer bonding over a new activity: losing weight.

From July 6 to Sept. 7, about 20 members of the church competed against — and encouraged — each other in a Biggest Loser contest, named after the popular TV show.

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Church member and registered nurse Vera Paylor, of Westminster, said she got the idea after she struggled to lose some weight and thought it could be helpful to herself and others if there was a group that could go through the process together.

"I'm an RN. I just take the knowledge that I know and share it," Paylor said. After church each week, she would share information on the right way to lose weight, she said, and the participants could try the tips on their own.

Paylor said there are lots of fad diets out there, but her biggest message was to eat a balanced diet and increase exercise. And to that end, she held weekly exercise nights for those who could make it, often taking a walk from the church around the community or using the walking trail at Union Bridge Wetlands Park.

The contest started July 6, with each participant having an initial weigh-in and being assigned a random number for identification purposes. That way Paylor could post their progress sheets on the board each week without anyone being embarrassed about others knowing their weight.

Each participant paid $5 to join, she said, and were subject to a penalty fee of $1 for every pound they gained each week. Even Paylor herself was subject to some of those penalty fees, she said, but it was a good motivator to help get back on track for the next week.

Ambassador Blango Ross Jr., pastor at Strawbridge UMC, said the contest was good for church fellowship, but also had a faith basis to it.

Scriptures refer to the body as a temple of the Holy Spirit, Ross said, and taking care of the body should be equivalent to other ceremonial rituals within the church.

"Food is not to be abused," he said.

Paylor said she made an effort to keep the event faith-based as well, inspired by 1 Corinthians 10:31, which states "Whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it for the glory of God," she said.

Church member Kim Jones, of Westminster, said that rather than focusing on the competition aspect, she found the contest to be more about support in her quest to be more healthy.

"It's the most supportive way to do it," Jones said. "Friends and family, if they're not dieting with you, it's harder."

Paylor said she offered prizes each week, ranging from health-minded cookbooks to water bottles to jump ropes.

Church member Ula Scott, of Frederick, said she thought the program helped her learn more about fitness and see results. Paylor had given her a goal of walking 1,500 steps per day, Scott said, which she found she can do in 14 minutes by walking around her neighborhood.

"She's a good pusher in order to get you to strive to do it," Scott said.

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The winner of the Biggest Loser contest was announced Sunday, and winner Leann Gassaway, of Westminster, was awarded half of the money pot, while the other half was designated for the church.

Gassaway, who lost 11 pounds, decided to donate her winnings to the church's youth group, which is collecting money for a trip to Orlando in 2015 for a youth conference.

Gassaway said she hadn't been trying to lose weight before the competition, but she knew she should.

"The contest was just what I needed to get started," she said.

The total amount of weight lost by the church members was 55 pounds, Paylor said, and while the contest officially ended, that doesn't mean the weight loss journey is over for many of the participants.

"They want to keep going with it," she said with a laugh. "I told them 'I want you guys to keep going, by all means, keep on losing.'"

Polish Pottery Bingo

The Union Bridge Lions Club is sponsoring a Polish Pottery Bingo Oct. 3 at the New Windsor fire company hall at 101 High St., New Windsor.

Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. and games will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15, and it is recommended that tickets be reserved in advance because a limited number are being sold. Tickets will be available at the door if there are any remaining. The ticket includes 20 games.

Raffle tickets will be available in addition.

Sandwiches, soups, snacks, desserts and beverages will be available for purchase starting at 5:30 p.m.

Money collected from the event will be used for the Lions' community service projects.

To reserve your tickets, call 410-635-6342.

Cash raffle

The New Windsor fire company is having a special cash raffle, with more than $12,000 being given away Sept. 27.

The drawings will begin at 2 p.m. at the fire hall and a prize will be given away every 10 minutes until 8 p.m. Only 5,000 chances will be sold, and every chance has two numbers on the ticket.

The $5,000 chance prize will be announced at 8 p.m., and must match the Maryland Lottery Pick 4 Drawing.

Each ticket costs $5, and tickets can be purchased in advance by calling 410-635-6373 or 410-775-7402, or at the door on the day of the drawing.

Free light refreshments will be available for as long as they last, and other games of chance will be ongoing throughout the event.

Participants do not need to be present to win.

The fire hall is at 101 High St., New Windsor.

Carrie Ann Knauer covers Linwood, New Windsor, Union Bridge, Uniontown and Johnsville. Contact her at 410-596-9248 or carrie.knauer@gmail.com.

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