When a winter storm hit the Northeast this week causing power outages to 650,000 homes and businesses, a little more than 2,000 people in Newtown, PA, headed to the Newtown Athletic Club (NAC).

Although some people came to work out, the health club also served as a warm refuge on Wednesday for hot showers, food at the NACafe and the ability to power up electronic devices.

Despite the snow and power outages (which were second only to the 800,000 people without power during Hurricane Sandy), the 125,000-square-foot multipurpose health club remained open until 11 p.m. Wednesday. Inside the NAC, which during the past two years has expanded, opened a sports training center and built a pool complex, the staff lined the hallways with extra tables and filled every available outlet with power strips, according to the NAC. Some people stayed for hours so they could work on their laptops from within the NAC. Some came just to kill time with their children, who had yet another day off from school.

“We had an even busier day in our NACafe than we had for Hurricane Sandy,” says Linda Mitchell, director of public relations for the NAC. “That’s how many folks were here needing a hot meal. More than anything else, the bonding experience was worth its weight in gold since people were so stressed.”

People filled the club’s basketball courts and group exercise rooms, which projected one of the NAC’s newest amenities, Fitness on Demand. People were able to go to a main frame computer, select a class to view on an automatic drop down screen (no live instructor required) and follow along with a workout.

Even though by today about 30 percent of the people in the area had had their power restored and those still without power were finding other places to go, some people were still using the NAC to stay warm today, Mitchell says. 

People made new friends, shared tables, shared outlets and enjoyed using the brand new hotel-quality towels just introduced on Monday, she adds.

Amanda Konigsberg, director of marketing, says, “Our fans and friends were chatting all day on Facebook saying things like ‘Thank you, NAC. It was great to have a place to go.’” 

Days such as these allow a business to prove its metal, Mitchell adds.

“If it is possible to be there for your fellow man, then we say do it, and know that in paying it forward, the payback will always come,” Mitchell says.