Atlantic City Linen Supply works to process millions of pounds of laundry a day. But during the past nine weeks, its employees have added a new challenge to their workload - shedding pounds and getting healthy.

After a health assessment of their company showed reports of high blood pressure and obesity, Daniel Goldberg, the company's vice president of administration, knew its three locations needed to make a change.

"We (had) to find a way to incentivize people to get healthy, so we came up with this contest," Goldberg said as he walked through his plant.

More than 50 employees from the company's Atlantic City headquarters, ACLS Pleasantville and ACLS Wardrobe in Pleasantville agreed to sign up for the Biggest Loser Competition, which would earn them prizes for losing weight.

From the start, the laundry company made sure its employees were taking a healthy approach to weight loss through partnerships with local health care providers and businesses.

"All participants received health screenings at the beginning of the competition," said the program's coordinator, Rachel Chornomaz. Following the screening, employees stepped on the scales for their initial weigh-in.

ACLS Wardrobe employee Al Cappolina Jr., of Egg Harbor Township, knew he had to step on the scale and join the competition.

"It was really for the kids. They were on me a lot about my belly," Cappolina said, who ended up taking home the grand prize for overall weight loss and highest percentage of weight lost.

More than 40 sessions at the participating Island Gym found Cappolina 40.8 pounds. lighter, losing 16.5 percent of his body weight.

"I have a lot more energy, stamina, endurance," the ACLS Wardrobe worker said. "Winning a contest is just a bonus, but being in good health, that's my main concern."

ACLS continued to put its employees on the right track through cooking demonstrations, presentations on healthy shopping on a budget and more by local dietitians and chiropractors, Chornomaz said.

Island Gym also sent a trainer on-site for Zumba and FitX classes.

"We were very pleased with the turnout for these classes, especially since this is the first time we have done anything like this on-site," Chornomaz continued.

Outside of the classes, ACLS offered gym memberships for participants to use during the nine weeks at either Island Gym or Oceanside Wellness and Sport.

And as employees got hungry while on-site, ACLS began offering healthier solutions.

"It's a great selection of foods for those who are looking to avoid trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, food coloring and other additives," Chornomaz said of the healthy vending machine that was installed in July. "The employees seem to enjoy having the variety and choices other than just candy bars, chips and soda."

One participating employee, Ethel Fitzhugh, of Mays Landing, has worked at the Atlantic City plant since it began in 1986.

The dedicated employee joined the competition to lay off the snacks and to get trimmer.

The overall percentage winner for the Atlantic City location was all smiles following the presentation of her $250 cash prize. She credits the competition with making her feel younger and move easier.

"It was hard, but it was worth it. Even if I hadn't won, just to get rid of the pounds and get healthy, that's the important part," Fitzhugh said. "It feels great," she said of the win.

Random participants were presented raffle prizes, ranging from workout equipment to overnight stays in Atlantic City, and Wawa gift cards were handed out to the employees if they "Beat the President."

CEO David Goldberg stepped before the crowd for his final weigh-in. He happily watched as his employees received their gift cards for dropping a larger percentage of weight than he had.

"We want everybody to be healthy," he said.

Although ALCS Wardrobe took home the overall prize for highest percentage of weight lost, everyone left a little lighter than when they started.

Chornomaz was all smiles as she handed out every prize.

"We're looking forward to making this an annual event and to make it bigger each year."

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