The Circuit and a Circle of Friends

The Circuit and a Circle of Friends
Megan Othersen Gorman

From left to right: Ruth Kivett, Phyllis Schendel and Janie Bireline.

 
“It’s like Vegas in here,” jokes Nedra Howland, owner of the Danville, Illinois, Curves, tucked just inside the  easternmost edge of the state, about as far from Sin City as you can be in Illinois. “What’s said in the circuit, stays in the circuit! But the friendships formed there—now, they’re another matter.” They have reach. In the case of one decidedly tight Danville trio, all the way across town to the coffee shop.
 
Janie Bireline, Ruth Kivett, and Phyllis Schendel are all widowed. Janie, the youngest, will turn 70 in August. And they met at the 7:30 a.m. Danville Curves circuit. “We were all putting back on our street shoes one day after the circuit,” remembers Ruth. “And someone said, let’s get a cup of coffee! And so we did. None of us was quite ready to go home to an empty house, so we went, where we proceeded to solve all the problems of the world over coffee. Now, we do it every day.”
 
They’re not a closed group. “Everyone’s invited to come,” emphasizes Phyllis. But it’s The Troubles, as the trio is collectively known, who are always there. “When we’re together, people tend to say, here comes trouble—especially in reference to those two,” giggles Janie about Ruth and Phyllis, all of whom now travel together frequently. “I like to think ‘trouble’ is stamped on their foreheads somewhere. Whatever it is, it makes us The Troubles!”
 
“Or The Angels,” Ruth interjects, “because we’re both in equal measure. Two of us have no family anywhere close. It’s this friendship that fills up our lives now.”
 
Phyllis is quick to affirm Ruth’s sentiments: “It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” she says. “Meeting these women and forming these friendships has been the very best thing. I don’t know if it would have happened at another gym or anywhere else—it could have, I guess. But the fact of the matter is, it didn’t. It happened at Curves, and I’m so grateful for it.”
 
You make muscle at Curves, sure. But you also make so much more. You build physical strength and strong relationships. “It’s part of the promise I’ve always seen in the circuit,” says Danville owner Nedra. “Without that circle and the connections that spring from it, a gym is just a gym. And we at Curves are so much more.” In fact, we’re all that and, if you’d like, a cuppa joe.
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