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Perham TOPS hits 40th Anniversary

We all face hurdles and challenges in life, and no one is meant to take those challenges on alone. Esther Manz, founder of the nonprofit weight loss group TOPS recognized that back in 1948, and it motivated her to start the group.

Pregnant with her fifth child, Manz observed in her group sessions meant to prepare women for childbirth, the power of mutual support in helping the women stay within their doctors guidelines for weight.

One day, gathered around her kitchen table with friends in Milwaukee, Wi., she formed the idea for TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly). The idea itself took off like a top, and now, 69 years later the group is still going strong with chapters in the United States and Canada. The Perham chapter has been supporting local members for 40 years.

TOPS is a confidential support group for individuals looking to get healthy and lose weight, so the group doesn't give out full names of its members. But co-leader Ruth Ann thinks it's important for the community to know the group exists because she wants folks who might need support in their journey to lose to weight and be healthy to know they aren't alone.

From psychology to science to faith, all provide evidence that human beings fair better with support, rather than in isolation, and that's just as true for weight loss as with anything else someone might be trying to deal with in life.

The Perham chapter currently has 13 members. Ruth Ann has been a member for 23 years and says as a stress eater, without the group she wouldn't have made it through some very challenging times in her life. She joined TOPS to maintain a healthy eating program and it's been a valuable support group over the years.

Since its beginnings, TOPS has been committed to healthy lifestyles and research. In 1966 the TOPS Club Inc. Obesity and Metabolic Research Program was established, and in 1994 the Medical College of Wisconsin dedicated the TOPS Center for Obesity and Metabolic Research to recognize the $4.5 million that TOPS Club, Inc. had donated for medical research.

Over the years, TOPS has maintained a focus on affordability for its members. Manz wanted to keep the organization a nonprofit, which is why, as the story goes, she allegedly turned down an offer of $1 million to buyout the company. She reportedly said, "it's about people not profits."

The Perham chapter is celebrating its 40th anniversary with an open house on November 14, from 9:30 - 10:30 a.m. at the United Methodist Church, 223 4th Ave., S.E., Perham. For more information, call Ruth Ann at (218) 346-2666 or Mary at (218) 346-3160.