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New Covington Gym Seeks to Build Bodies & Souls

A new gym in Covington is dedicated to building bodies and souls.

The Lord's Gym has a new location at 811 Madison Avenue, where a boxing training facility called Shamrocks previously operated.

In collaboration with FOCAS (Foundation of Compassionate American Samaritans) Ministries, the Lord's Gym in Covington is now the second location in the Greater Cincinnati area. A location in Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine neighborhood has been in operation since 1993.

It's more than just strength training. "It's spiritual enrichment, a lot of life coaching," said Larry Spellman, a chaplain at the gym.

"You're gonna get a lot of inner-city, poverty-stricken, homeless, single parents, people out of incarceration," Spellman said. 

The gym will also operate as a ministry and will pray with its members when needed. It will also feed those in need.

Spellman explained that the gym takes a bridge-building approach in dealing with members that are in need of a new outlook on life. First, the ministry works to bridge a relationship with the man (Lord's Gym is exclusively male). The chaplains will learn about the man's relationship with God and how that can be improved if necessary.

Secondly, the Lord's Gym identifies possible partnerships that the man can develop whether it be professional or spiritual.

Everything the ministry is able to accomplish is through the benevolence of donors. "We have minimal resources but we try to maximize them," Spellman said.

Pastor Kevin Johnson, a former college football player at Eastern Kentucky University and minister at New Hope Christian Church in Newport, works closely with the men. He has been a regular presence at the Over-the-Rhine location since 2008 and shared many stories of how men turned away from lives of drugs and violence thanks to their work in the gym.

There are between three and four hundred active members in Cincinnati.

The Covington location, which opened last week, is off to a slower start but Spellman was spotted this week handing out fliers on the street to build up interest. Memberships are a low $10 a year that can be paid in one dollar installments. "When people really find out about this place, I think we'll surpass Over-the-Rhine," Spellman said.

"It's a refuge for a lot of people. It could be a lot worse in Over-the-Rhine without the Lord's Gym."

On the day this interview was conducted, a scene unfolded across the street on Madison Avenue in which two men were close to a violent confrontation before being stopped by law enforcement. "We want to catch every person displaying those types of aggressions," Spellman said. "We're able to come in because of the relationship, because they know we care about them."

The Lord's Gym selected their newest location in Covington based on what its organizers see as a need. "We see homeless, drugs, prostitutes, anger, police, people out there fighting," Spellman said. "We want to intervene right there in the most negatively impacted areas." 

The Lord's Gym is also eyeing new locations in Cincinnati's Price Hill neighborhood and the more northern suburbs like Springdale.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo by The River City News