After Linda watched the consequences of obesity rob her sister of a better quality of life, she opened an all-female gym in her hometown of Vicksburg, Mississippi. She sought to help other women get healthy and have an opportunity to exercise and socialize in a comfortable environment. Linda named the gym Shape Up Sisters with the motto, "Positively Reshaping Women."
After witnessing how many middle- and low-income Vicksburg residents were brought up short in their fitness and health efforts by limited budgets, time, and access to resources, Fondren responded by striking at the root problem. In 2009, she spearheaded Shape Up Vicksburg, a City Hall–supported program in which she convinced the local hospital to offer free health screenings, restaurants to create healthy low-cal menu options, and Walmart to host weigh-in stations.
Fondren signed up more than 2,500 Vicksburg residents to take charge of their health and nutrition—many of them for the first time. They lost more than 15,000 pounds. For her work in the community, Linda was nominated as a Top Ten CNN Hero of the year for 2010. Linda was selected, along with such distinguished leaders as First Lady Michelle Obama, as one of The Grio’s 100 History Makers in the Making. She was also voted 2011 Woman of the Year for the City of Vicksburg.
In addition to spreading the word about the importance of physical fitness and nutrition through her book, Linda continues to work both in her community and through speaking engagements around the country. The Shape Up Vicksburg Get Healthy Walking Club regularly holds walks all around the city in locations with historical and educational significance. Linda partnered with the Vicksburg National Military Park to create the Shape Up Junior Rangers Program. She also partnered with Alcorn State University to improve the quality of life for people with limited resources through a life-long learning program that includes a community garden. She continues her mission to help battle obesity and inspire people through her work in schools, churches and businesses in her community.
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