Michele Vanderyacht, general manager at Epic Fitness, helped organize several fundraisers this year. (Troy Brynelson/Salem Reporter)

Michele Vanderyacht decided recently she wanted to spend more time giving back to the community, and she has done so with the help of the gym she manages.

 “I’m blessed that I can pay my bills. I just bought a house. I can go to the store and buy what I need. I’ve run into so many wonderful people and have just gotten into helping out the community,” the 54-year-old said. “I just absolutely love it.”

Through Vanderyacht, Epic Fitness has helped organize a pajama drive that collected nearly 500 pairs to give to child services organizations. The gym has also supported Bridgeway Recovery Services and Willamette Humane Society.

Shaney Starr, executive director of Court Appointed Special Advocates of Marion County, one organization that received pajamas, said she was grateful because kids in the program either outgrow theirs or aren’t allowed to take them to a new home. The organization works to provide court-appointed advocates for abused children.

“It’s a blessing for our kiddos,” Starr said. “We have a supply of pajamas here at all times for all ages because of that drive. It’s a detail oftentimes people don’t think about so just having that resource here in our office and on our shelves is a blessing.”

Michele Vanderyacht holds up pajamas to be donated to local organizations. Vanderyacht, general manager at Epic Fitness, helped organize fundraisers this year. (Troy Brynelson/Salem Reporter)

Vanderyacht’s philanthropic streak is somewhat new and was encouraged by the owners of Epic Fitness. She hit the ground running, but soon realized she was organizing too many events. Participate started to dwindle. Now, she tries to be more strategic.

“With the members we have, boy, they are the most generous members we have ever seen,” she said.

Now Vanderyacht is helping get others involved. When personal trainer Nick Halvorson asked her recently how he could volunteer, she immediately dispatched him and two others to a toy drive put together by the Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center.

“She just empowers us to do it, too,” said Halvorson, 24. “It’s not just Michele’s show, she gives us opportunities to do that.”

Michele Vanderyacht and Destany Belliard look over membership contracts at Epic Fitness. (Troy Brynelson/Salem Reporter)

Vanderyacht has started enlisting her staff to pick organizations they want to help. One staffer is planning a fundraiser in March for Simonka Place for Women and Children, the women’s shelter run by Union Gospel Mission.

She said takes pride in fostering others to give back.

“It not only helps the community, but it teaches younger people under me to carry this into their life and into their next job, with whatever they want to do,” she said. “It becomes ingrained in their workplace that this is something they want to do.”

Have a tip? Contact reporter Troy Brynelson at 503-575-9930, troy@salemreporter.com or @TroyWB.