[by Shiela Steinman Wallace]
As part of its plan to serve the community better, the Jewish Community of Louisville has announced the reorganization of the Jewish Community Center’s Membership and Wellness Department.
The JCC is pleased to welcome back Larry Mestel in the role of WTS senior director of membership and wellness and to introduce or reintroduce the rest of the staff in the department: Suzy Hillebrand Renfrow, membership director; Tara Stone, customer service director; Brianna Jordan, membership associate; and Ron Peackcock, fitness director.
In addition, Annette Sagerman, who devoted 65 years of her life to the Center, is returning as a volunteer to call on old friends who have left the JCC and invite them to return.
Together, they are working to make your experience at the JCC the best that it can be.
The Aquatics Department, with Director Liz Stumper, is not part of the Membership and Wellness Department. Watch for more about Stumper and an update on the Lenny Krayzelburg Swim Academy in the spring.
While Larry Mestel is just beginning his work in his new position at the Jewish Community Center, he is no stranger to the agency. He first came to the JCC in 1993 as the sports director and later director of sports and wellness. He soon earned a place in members’ hearts, and, over the course of 14 years, oversaw all aspects of aquatics, fitness and sports that the JCC offered.
In 2008, WTS International, a fitness management consulting firm, made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. So he moved to Cincinnati, where he helped in the rebirth of that city’s Jewish Community Center, which had functioned without a physical building for several years.
“My role in Cincinnati,” Mestel explained, “was to oversee membership and fitness and a spa. … It was a delightful challenge, and I’m glad I took it. It gave me extra tools and experience to bring back to the Louisville JCC and the community.”
Today, Mestel continues to work for WTS, and when the Jewish Community of Louisville hired that management company to run the fitness and membership departments, bringing the popular fitness pro back to the River City was the logical choice.
“I’m extremely excited about the opportunity to work with Stu [Silberman] and Sara [Wagner] in shaping the future of the JCC, and working closely with the Board and the Strategic Planning Committee,” Mestel said.
“Louisville is a wonderful place to raise my family,” he added, “and I’m looking forward to coming back.”
Mestel’s reception from JCC members has been warm. “A number of members who knew me before have taken time to welcome me back, which made me feel terrific. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet the current staff, who are wonderful and bring a lot of strengths.
“I’m looking forward to being part of the team,” he continued. “My new role will involve, membership, marketing, sales, integration and retention.”
Mestel has a BS from Southern Illinois University, where he majored in history and earned a minor in education and coaching; and a Master of Divinity from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.
He has completed his certification in pool operation, water safety instruction, lifeguard instruction, and many aspects of first aid; and has additional training in management, aquatics and fitness.
Mestel also enjoys officiating small college and high school basketball. He has completed additional training in that area and has earned several awards for his activities, including the President’s Award for honesty and integrity and the Gold Whistle Award.
Mestel and his three sons – Robert, Jonathan and Kenneth – are excited about returning to the Louisville area.
Suzanne Hillebrand Renfrow
While Suzy Renfrow has only been working at the Jewish Community Center as membership director for a few months, its really more like she has come home.
A native Louisvillian and the sixth of eight children in her family, she and her siblings grew up at the JCC. “We all swam here and worked here,” Renfrow said. “I love the JCC and I have a passion for it because of the great family memories I have from growing up here.
“We just moved back from Phoenix a year ago,” she continued, “so, more than ever, I have an appreciation for the important roots you put down when you belong to a community.”
Renfrow is eager to create the same kind of experience she had for today’s JCC members. “My door is open,” she stated, and she’s eager to welcome new members and introduce them to the Center. She’s looking forward to getting out in the community to encourage people to check out the JCC and to reaching out to businesses to get them to take advantage of the corporate membership program.
“Family brought us back to Louisville,” Renfrow said. “We have family here, some of our children were here, and we wanted to be back in the place we love.
Renfrow has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Murray State University and has worked in a number of business development positions before coming to the JCC. She’s a member of the Sacred Heart Alumni Association and the Murray State Alumni Association. She was a member of Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority.
She has four children: Douglas Stonecash, Peyton Stonecash, Connor Stonecash and Eloise Renfrow.
JCC Customer Service Director Tara Stone comes from Alma, MI, which she describes as “a very small town.” She chose to work at the Jewish Community Center, “because I grew up in the community center in my hometown. I was always there after school and for dances and other activities.”
When she came to Louisville, Stone explained, “I was looking to become part of a community, and this position seemed perfect. It was a meshing of the customer service that I have a passion for with a background in sports, wellness and fitness, which I also have a passion for and enjoy. I also value family and quality of life, so this is a perfect fit.”
“My hope,” she continued, “is to get to know the community and the members better and to provide them with the services they’re looking for. I would love to raise the level of member service and bring the community feel to the department.”
Stone is already making changes. She has set up a comment card system, “so anybody will feel comfortable giving us comments and suggestions – whether it be about things we need to change or things we’re doing great.”
She’s eager to take advantage of the JCC’s partnership with WTS and plans on using the tools and resources they bring to enhance member experiences and help staff get to know members on a more personal level. She also wants to learn as much as she can about the other departments and is looking forward to becoming part of the community, too.
Stone started working in customer service when she was 16 and has worked her way up in the field. “It is very rewarding to have satisfied customers,” she said, and she has set as her personal goal to “build customers for life.” At the same time, she can pursue her dedication to fitness. “I’m a certified spin instructor,” she noted, “and spent some time as a youth fitness coach.” She has also earned certifications in several aspects of first aid.
In her previous position, Stone said, “I enjoyed building our customer base. I watched families grow up and got to know the customers on a deeper level.”
Stone is the youngest of three children. Most of her family is in Myrtle Beach, SC. Stone came to Louisville with her boyfriend, Brian Douglas. He works for Vision Airlines, and a good job opportunity for him brought them to Louisville. Stone was also ready for life in a bigger city.
Stone has a BA in Spanish from Coastal Carolina University. She was a youth fitness coach and has held several customer service and sales positions before coming to the JCC.
Volunteering is also an important part of Stone’s life. She is a volunteer transport driver for No-Kill Louisville and mentored an at-risk student for a year. She has volunteered for Gap Giving Gifts, Adopt-a-Soldier, Adopt-a-Family holiday program and the Humane Society, and has participated in a Breast Cancer Awareness walk.
Membership Associate Brianna Jordan is a junior at Indiana University Southeast, where she is studying finance and economics.
She describes herself as “an avid JCC member. I love the JCC,” she said. “I’m always here working out, running or at work.”
In fact, Jordan’s first job was at the JCC. “I began working here in 2008 as a receptionist in Sports and Wellness. I love it here. It feels like a community and like home. I feel more comfortable here than anywhere, and will stay as long as they’ll keep me.” Last summer, she was the interim membership director.
She’s not sure what she’ll do when she graduates. “I started out in medicine,” Jordan said, “and switched to business because I found I really love the business world and interacting with people.”
She feels that she has learned a lot at the JCC, and with the restructuring of the Membership and Wellness Department, she’s looking forward to creating a lot of new relationships while maintaining friendly relationships with current members.
Jordan is a graduate of Butler Traditional High School. She used to volunteer at Sts. Mary and Elizabeth Hospital, and now volunteers with the March of Dimes and the American Red Cross. She belongs to UNICEF and the Most Blessed of Theresa of Calcutta Parish.
Fitness Director Ron Peacock studied business management at the University of Louisville on a Presidential Academic Scholarship and “went into the corporate world doing customer relations and management” for a couple of the largest local companies.
His passion, however, was his hobby of sports and fitness. “Then I decided to pursue a career in fitness, and in 2007, I became a personal trainer.” He continued his education and has a personal training certificate from the American Council of Exercise and one in sports management from the American College in Sports Management.
Peacock came to the JCC three years ago as the fitness manager and a personal trainer. He was named fitness director in 2010.
“I love helping people and to help them develop healthier lifestyles,” Peacock said. “My motto is: Hard work and dedication equal a healthier lifestyle.”
“With the makeover of the JCC and the new equipment,” he continued, “I look forward to offering a wider variety of health and wellness programs for all our members.” Look for a couple of free new classes starting soon. Zumba classes start in December and Run Ready classes in February.
“And we’ve just added two new great personal trainers,” Peacock added, “along with a couple of discounted personal training packages.”
“I just love helping people and seeing their smiles and happiness when they get results,” he said.
Peacock plays softball and volleyball at the national level. He also enjoys traveling, coaching a women’s traveling softball team and body building.
He’s happy at the JCC and says, “I plan on being here until they throw me out the door or I retire.”