By Tiffany Merlo Phelps
Charleen Morency grew up knowing the importance of fitness and sports, thanks to her father who was the wrestling, track and football coach and physical education teacher for 33 years at Humboldt High School in Minnesota. He required that all nine children in the family stay active. Morency, the youngest of the family, and her siblings had to choose a sport to play and earn an “A” in PE class. So, she played basketball, softball, volleyball and then settled on the Highlanders Dance Line at Highland High School. Morency also earned that “A.” Morency’s father worked at the rival high school, so they always played homecoming games against each other. That introduction to health and sportsmanship has served Morency well throughout her life and in her business. Morency, a 25-year Mandarin resident, currently teaches low impact, fusion and Active Older Adults (AOA) fitness classes at both the Brooks Family and the Flagler Center YMCAs. She is also the owner, along with her husband, Dave, of two Wing-It restaurants, one located in Mandarin and another in Oceanway. They love to host “server night” and raise money for the Brooks Family YMCA, raising $900 – $1,200 each time to help meet community needs.
Q: Where are you from?
A: I am from St. Paul, Minnesota. We moved to California, North Carolina, back to Minnesota and then in 1995 to Florida.
Q: How did you get your start in teaching fitness classes?
A: It all started with fitness instructor Joanie Greggains after high school, basically an aerobic workout. I used to listen to the workout on cassette tape and did it in my bedroom or in the basement. When we moved to California, step aerobics was introduced at the gym. I hated it at first, but then, when we moved back to Minnesota, my sister was teaching it. She taught me how to teach, and it really made sense in my brain when it came to the choreography. I became American Council on Exercise (ACE) certified at that time and began to teach step and hi/lo at a community center. Once we moved to Florida, I started teaching at what was then Planet Premier and eventually became the group fitness manager. Later, I taught at Cory Everson’s (a gym for women). In 2005 and in 2008, I got certified in Les Mills’ BODYSTEP and BODYVIBE, respectively.
Q: How have your restaurants managed during the COVID-19 crisis?
A: The first couple of weeks I thought that we would go bankrupt. We were offering carry out, but not that many folks were coming in, and it was very scary. We were doing maybe 25 percent of our normal business. We felt badly for our employees, and we were very aware that with our employees we had people’s lives in our hands. After Easter, things began to improve as there was more of a support local push. We were able to keep both restaurants open, and we did not have to let any employees go. We have the best customers on the earth. They have supported us, and they routinely give our employees very generous tips. The beautiful thing about our employees was that everyone did what was best for each other, giving shifts to those who needed it the most. And if someone was not comfortable working, they did not have to work. It all worked out, and we were so grateful for that. The reopening went well. People are definitely cautious about being out, but they are coming out. So, it is a start back to normal life.
Q: You mentioned having health issues for many years and not being able to figure out what was wrong. Explain more about this.
A: I did not feel well for several years with lower back pain and not wanting to eat. I kept going to different doctors, but they could not find anything wrong with me. I finally saw a doctor and inquired about my gallbladder. I ended up having my gallbladder removed, and the doctors found that it had cancer in it. There is a one percent survival rate with that type of cancer. I was very lucky because I did not have to have any chemotherapy or anything. It was a life-changing moment. After that news, I decided that I did not want to spend 24/7 in the restaurant, and I wanted to teach more active adult classes. They are so grateful for what you give them. You give them joy, and they can feel if you are genuine. It became very meaningful and brings me joy to teach seniors.
Q: What is your life philosophy?
A: What I really believe in totally and completely is live and let live. Don’t judge other people. Everybody has a story.
Photo courtesy Charleen Morency