For millions of Americans, health and wellness has been a huge post-pandemic priority. But with the high cost of everything these days, having a gym membership or personal trainer is out of reach. That is why community leaders in the city of Newburgh opened their own health and wellness center, completely free to the public.

Newburgh resident Patrice Douglas attends the “Socacize” class at the Desmond Center every Thursday.

“It's a great … stress reliever,” said Douglas.

Douglas is a licensed therapist and has been practicing for a few years, so she knows a thing or two about giving wellness tips to clients.

“We obviously serve a lot of people and pour out into people. So being a part of [it] is a great way for me to pour back into myself and really practice what I preach about self-care and taking care of oneself first,” said Douglas.

According to the Global Wellness Institute, as the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, growth across the health and wellness sector could reach $7 trillion in 2025.

Access to better fitness and nutrition, though, can come at a cost. Orange County Legislator Genesis Ramos decided to team up with other community members to open the Desmond Center for Community Engagement and Wellness at Mount Saint Mary’s College.

“It’s really about filling in gaps for health equity in our community, working with other partners here in the community that are also doing great work. A lot of what we do right now is focused on the wellness aspect and professional development side of things,” said Ramos.

Program coordinator Ashley Collazo says the initiative empowers people with the knowledge and tools they need to heal and get healthy, physically and mentally.

“I think most powerfully, if we want to name a program that I think has been really successful as when we fuse mental health programming with the arts … and we know that [the] arts can be really transformative, really healing, really evocative calls for conversation,” Collazo said. “And what we have found is that when we're able to merge these two really powerful things, really healing things happen.”

Douglas says she’s happy to keep socializing while getting her body moving every week in the “Socacize” class.

“It's a great way to tap into yourself and feel refreshed so that you can continue on with the rest of your week,” said Douglas.