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Kettle competition: One man's loss is another man's gain

SJE Rhombus employees Rick Strozyk (left) and Scott Rietsema place $880 into the Salvation Army's Red Kettle Sunday, after raising the money from a company weight-loss competition.

Some "big losers" over at SJE-Rhombus are helping to make those in need big winners this holiday season.

A group of employees have been 'working their rear ends off' for months, putting together a health awareness contest designed to encourage employees to lose extra pounds and gain extra funds.

Four teams of 20 SJE volunteers were formed in February.

"It was a team concept where we all jumped on the scale at the same time," said SJE Design Engineer Rick Strozyk, who helped coordinate the challenge.

All spring the employees encouraged each other day after day until May, when the big weigh-in showed a group loss of around 400 pounds.

Strozyk says two employees who had solicited sponsors for their weight-loss inspired the rest of them to do the same as they then began a second wave of competition in June.

But instead of throwing the money into a pot for the biggest loser, the crew decided the money would go to charity.

"We got some of our friends and family to sponsor each pound lost," said Natasha Nodsle, who is not only the wellness committee chair for the company, but also a participant in the contest.

Nodsle says with the encouragement of her sponsors (who paid her 4 dollars for every pound she lost), and from her fellow employees, she shed 10 pounds.

"And it was just so motivating knowing this was going to charity because everything we did was going to help our community and people who really need it," said Nodsle.

And while losing weight can be hard, everybody knows keeping it off can be just as hard.

"So to give us motivation, we also had to pay in $5 for every pound gained," said Strozyk, who says the teams wrapped up their contest this month, just before the temptation of holiday goodies started popping up everywhere.

It also happened to be at a time when the sounds of bells were ringing throughout the city.

"So we decided to donate the money to the Salvation Army's Red Kettle," said Strozyk.

As they manned the kettle over the weekend, some slimmer, healthier SJE employees dumped a total of $880 worth of blood, sweat and tears into the kettle.

And while Strozyk says he believes their company has a reputation for being a charitable organization, they (being employee-owned) also make it a priority to help keep each other healthy.

"We're all part of this together," said Strozyk, "We've gotta keep ourselves healthy as best we can because not only does it keep our health rates down, but we all just get along better -- this really is a team thing."

But it doesn't end here -- Strozyk says they'll be starting up a whole new weight management program at SJE Rhombus after the New Year.