Seattle's United Gospel Mission Success Story
Weight off the soul - onto the pecs
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
1 March 1995. Page B-1
By Gordy Holt P-I Reporter
Troubled men find Jesus - and the door to bright new gym.

The only thing messed up about Kelton Dotson these days are his knees. But after a long spell on the wrong side of health and fitness, Dotson's 52-year old head is finally back on straight, he said. The knees are getting there.

James Barker is in a similar strait, although nobody ever questioned his knees. It was all that other stuff, he said.

"Pimp, hustler, dope fiend. Then like Kelton," he said, "I came here and found out about Jesus."

They said their renewal came, in part, in the basement of Seattle's Union Gospel Mission, a Christian shelter for homeless and troubled men at Second Avenue South and South Washington Street on the edge of Pioneer Square.

During their rehabilitation, both men retired regularly to a small Universal Gym and a workout bench in the mission's basement to pump iron and otherwise get their acts together.

"Yeah," said Barker, "we made do with that old Universal and an old black bench. That was it. And it was ugly too."

No more.

The mission's basement now is home to an estimated $50,000 in new and reconditioned weight-training equipment - from treadmills and stair climbing machines to Nautilus equipment and free weights.

No longer bare and spare, it now has new carpet, mirrors and fresh paint, white against a sort of lavender that covers the plumbing. The new gym will be dedicated Friday.

Mission manager Jack Martin raves about the new gym. And at a time when weight-lifting programs in state prisons have come under criticism, the Pioneer Square community seems to like what it sees at the Union Gospel Mission.

Shop owner Leone Ewald, vice president of the pioneer Square Property Owners Association, sees no threat from mission residents.

To the contrary, he said, "I can't possibly see how a weight room could be a problem."

The equipment is courtesy of Neil Shober and Richard Hart, parnters in Hart's Athletic Clubs, a chain of seven Seattle-area fitness gyms.

Hart was not available for comment yesterday but Shober said, "it's just something we decided to do." He credited the inspiration to his workout partner, Jeff Clausen, a professional trainer.

Clausen said the idea hit him last Thanksgiving . He had volunteered to serve dinner at the mission, discovered the gym in the basement and saw room for improvement.

"What I saw was pretty primitive," Clausen said. "It struck me that we could do better."

So he pitched the idea to his pals at Hart's and the renaissance began.

"I know how exercise has helped me get through some tough times," Clausen said. "This should attract a lot of interest."

Barker, who works with Dotson at the mission, was still spreading fresh paint yesterday, but during a break in that activity he found his pal in the gym.

Dotson, who said he played football years ago, described himself as a "health floor supervisor." He wears braces on both knees, the result of a recent basketball accident that affected both kneecaps.

Barker and Dotson both say they became Christians at the mission, discovered and rediscovered weight training there and consider the new gym a little bit of heaven.

"Whew!" Barker said between pumps on a chest machine. 'It's great for bringing a little focus to your life."

The caption on a nice photo (by Grant M. Haller) of the new facility says," James Barker checks out the crossover cable machine in the newly equipped gym at the downtown Union Gospel Mission. He and others have found that physical exercise has helped. overcome personal problems and put them on the right path.

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