Nov 7 - Dec 31, 2019

SPOTLIGHT – Central Coast Quality of Life Programs

Yoga instructor Gina Puccinelli is in the middle of a sunlit fitness studio at the Monterey Sports Center leading her students through a series of poses – cobra, diver’s, cow, cat. But this yoga class is a little different than most. Rather than standing or lying on a mat, Puccinelli and her students are seated on folding chairs in the yoga version of the PBS exercise show, Sit and Be Fit.

This is the Friday afternoon Adaptive Yoga class offered free to clients by Central Coast Quality of Life Programs, a nonprofit that services the needs of people with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and related neurological diseases.

The class, paid for by CCQLP and taught by Sports Center staff, launched this fall, joining a water aerobics program already operating under a similar arrangement. The nonprofit started the programs after a survey of its clients last year showed what they wanted most were fitness classes – for both exercise and the chance to socialize with others in similar circumstances. About 30 people are enrolled in each class, and the nonprofit now hopes to expand fitness classes to other locations – their Big Idea for Monterey County Gives!. Students say both the yoga and water aerobics classes are life-changing.

“I can honestly say if I didn’t participate in either of these classes I’d be confined to home,” says Carrieann Hess. The Marina resident was diagnosed with MS 14 years ago at age 22 and now uses a motorized wheelchair to get around.

Hess comes to classes at least three times a week. “When I miss a day it’s very noticeable,” she says.

Just as a survey led CCQLP to launch the fitness programs, it was a survey that started the organization in 2000. Two doctors saw that MS patients weren’t getting connected to services and looked into forming a communal living situation, but patients told them what they wanted most was to live independently, Executive Director Helen Zilinskas says.

Organizers started by offering case management. In the past year they’ve helped nearly 400 people with MS and more than 65 with Parkinson’s. Other services include support groups and a mobility device loan program. Everything is offered at no cost to clients.

The fitness classes help clients feel stronger, more coordinated and improve mobility. Meredith Adams, a registered nurse living with Parkinson’s, says participating has improved her health overall: “I’m better now than when I was diagnosed, and I attribute it to being active.”