The third recipient of the Be A Neighbor Fund from Handshake.City and partners Universal Bookkeeper, Made In Utica and McGrogan Design is Bodywise Pure Pilates, a classical Pilates studio located on Genesee Street in Utica. Bodywise will receive $1,000 a month over three months for $3,000 total.

Bodywise Pure Pilates, run by owner Valerie Lopata for the past 20 years, offers a highly personalized training experience in a semi-private, boutique setting. The business was chosen for the Fund based on factors such as financial need, longevity, community involvement and public nominations.

As a fitness-based business, Bodywise was among first to be closed down due to the COVID pandemic. Even with shifting to an online, Zoom-based platform at a reduced fee, the business lost 50% of it’s client base. When it reopened in August after 23 weeks, costly enhancements to the HVAC system and hospital grade cleaning supplies along with a 33% capacity were required.

Despite the struggles due to the pandemic, Valerie and her team took the challenging year and used it as an opportunity to brainstorm ways to make what they do more accessible to more of the community. When asked about use of the Be A Neighbor Fund award, Valerie said “The first steps in our plan includes providing training for our staff, to help us better recognize and understand the experiences of people who look different from us. Building upon this foundation, we aim to forge partnerships with local community centers, agencies, and many of our Utica area parks, to bring Pilates classes at no or minimal cost to the bodies and minds of the populations they serve.”

Bodywise Pure Pilates is the third recipient of the Be A Neighbor Fund. On March 2nd, Cafe Domenico was announced as the first award recipient and on March 11th, Mello’s Subs was announced as the second. Handshake.City and it’s partners plan to name five recipients in total.

The Be A Neighbor Fund is made possible solely through donations. Over $25,000 has been crowdfunded by individual donors and business contributions so far, and the fund is still accepting donations. Be A Neighbor Fund is supported by AmeriCU Credit Union, Galaxy Media, First Source Federal Credit Union and other partners. For more details or to make a donation to the Be A Neighbor Fund, visit

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