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For Black History Month, NewsOne honors GAME CHANGERS: Everyday heroes whose actions make life better for the people around them. SEE ALL OUR GAME CHANGERS HERE.

extralargeVivian Kurutz

Place of Residence: New York City

Why She’s a Game Changer: This fall, Kurutz launched the Harlem Wellness Center, dedicated to helping area residents launch and maintain a healthy lifestyle with yoga and exercise classes and lessons on eating well.

She knew she was making a dent in the pitiful health statistics  in Harlem while working at another wellness center. Like many areas with high concentrations of African-Americans, Harlem suffers from higher extralarge-1rates of obesity and diabetes, in addition to stress. One in four Harlem residents is obese, around 29 percent smoke and more than 25 percent report their health as just fair or poor.

“I want to inspire and work with people here because they remind me of my family. My dream is for health and wellness in Harlem and teaching yoga is one way to do that,” Kurutz told Harlem World.

So when the wellness center the self-described “wholeness junkie” was working from closed down, Kurutz knew there was a need for her services in the community. She banded together with members from her former center and launched a fundraising campaign from which the Harlem Wellness Center was born. They raised $100 over their $20,000 goal to help launch the center.

“I have a passion for reaching out to people who would not otherwise afford these services. Yoga is becoming a luxury item,” Kurutz told DNAinfo New York.

At the center, class prices are kept low to open it up to as many people as possible. There is a holistic approach to health with a focus on things like meditation, acupuncture and healthy cooking.

extralarge-2Kurutz has first-hand experience about what happens when one’s health is not a priority. She watched an aunt get sick and die an early death because of her lifestyle choices. She doesn’t want others to go through that pain.

“When you come to class and see an instructor who looks like you it makes a big difference,” said Kurutz. “When black people saw that I was the director of the center and also led Yoga classes, they were like ‘Wow.'”

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