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Kristi Miller gives through Zumba

By David Freeze
For The Salisbury Post
By using her dancing talents, Kristi Miller is helping to build a new Family Life Center at Grace Lutheran Church, along with a little help from her friends.
By all accounts, Kristi pushes hard for success in anything she does. As a young married couple, she and husband Michael wanted to give to their church but found their financial resources limited. Her efforts to give through teaching Zumba classes have fostered a very special following of friends, neighbors and church members.
Kristi is extremely charismatic and full of energy. Her background includes many years of dancing, cheerleading and sports. Kristi first decided that an aerobics class would be her way to contribute to the building fund and started the class in November of 2010. She gave out flyers at church, and with the help of others, including Robin Bernhardt, encouraged anyone interested to come to the class.
“Robin was my biggest cheerleader and source or motivation,” Kristi says. “She kept encouraging me to do this.”
While attending a Zumba class at the Salisbury Civic Center, Kristi decided to add a Latin dance element to her aerobics class. Then in February, she raised the money for her Zumba license and became fully certified to teach the class that fits her personality. She found an ancient set of speakers in the closet of her in-laws, Brenda and David Miller. Kristi used them with a karaoke system until Randy Basinger helped her rig up a better system.
To date, her fundraising for Grace Lutheran Church includes $1,000 for Men in Mission and $1,500 for the Building Fund. She charges $2 at the door for the class, and doesn’t keep any of it. Every penny goes to the church, once her license fees are covered.
Today, Kristi will be leading a Zumbathon at First Reformed Church in Landis that will benefit both Main Street Mission in China Grove and Godstock.
While admitting to spending lots of time on Zumba, Kristi says, “I love it all. I can’t wait for the next class. I tell people that Zumba has taken over my life. I download songs, look at videos to create new dances and watch for new trends.”
Kristi first started attending Grace in 2000 with her then-boyfriend Michael Miller. Michael began experiencing symptoms of nausea and occasionally would exhibit blank stares. Doctors eventually diagnosed a brain tumor in 2004. He underwent surgery in July of that year, and the tumor was found to be benign. Doctors warned the Millers that Michael would lose all or most of his peripheral vision, but he didn’t lose any. Michael was back to work within a month and has had no problems since.
“Once in a while, Michael feigns forgetfulness to get out of something that I want done,” Kristi says. “That’s OK; I guess I do it too. We’re just happy that he is healthy.”
West Rowan High School chose Kristi as its 2010-2011 Teacher of the Year. She teaches social studies and is also classified as a 21st Century Teacher. Her class uses laptops, iPods, and an interactive light board.
“I put the work in their hands,” she says. “They have to be creative. I want them enthusiastic about learning.”
Robin Bernhardt attributes the success of the Zumba class to Kristi: “She has the most energy of anyone I know. She is very inspiring, and always upbeat.”
Kristi uses her dance experience at Center Stage Dance Company in China Grove to lead the class but admits to occasionally making a mistake. Bernhardt adds, “She is like the Energizer Bunny, and she makes the class time fly by. If she messes up, she just smiles and keeps going. It’s just good to have the class moving.”
The Zumba class has become a church and community outreach. Not all attendees are members, but most know someone else in the group. All ages come to the class, with a good sprinkling of men.
Tim Sloop comes with his wife and daughter and doesn’t like missing a class.
“It’s a great workout,” he says. “I have lost 40 pounds and I plan to keep it off. Kristi doesn’t like it if I miss a class.”
Mike Yost agreed that the class is good exercise. Yost recently found out that he is diabetic. “My doctor told me to start getting some exercise, and I plan to lose 45 pounds. Kristi makes this fun. We all mess up and then we laugh. It’s hard not to smile in her class.”
There is more than just weight loss going on. Hannah Rowland has Down syndrome and she seldom misses a class. In fact, she stays close to Kristi, trying to be the first to figure out the steps. Debbie File brings her handicapped son Travis, or maybe he brings her. “We recently went to the beach,” File said, “and all Travis could thing about was that he had missed Zumba. He reminds me of every class night.”
Still others use Zumba as a cross-training exercise. Sheila Basinger and Bernhardt are just starting to train for their first marathon. Tim Sloop joins the class on Thursdays after taking a Salisbury Parks and Recreation running class.
They come together for many reasons, but everyone credits Kristi for her inspiration.
“Everybody is trying to be more health conscious,” said Shannon Moore. “For me, I use this class to relieve stress. But as I look around, everybody is in on it. Look at all the smiles. Kristi Miller is doing that for us!”
For more information, contact Kristi Miller at westcheers@hotmail.com.

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