Empowering Communities Through Strength: An Interview with Urban PowerHouse

Urban PowerHouse Sign

Many of us in the strength training community view lifting weights as a right. We should be able to move our bodies, push our limits, and discover what we’re truly capable of.

In reality, strength training is a privilege with many barriers to access—financial limitations, availability of space and resources, and finding a welcoming environment.

Urban PowerHouse is working to break down those barriers and make strength training accessible to all.

We were fortunate enough to chat with Urban PowerHouse Co-Founder Laurie Maranian about this organization's history, mission, and importance. Read on to learn more and discover how you can help.

The Birth of Urban PowerHouse: A Vision for Inclusivity

urban powerhouse inclusivity

Joseph Stephen and Laurie Maranian founded Urban PowerHouse in 2018 after identifying a need in the urban neighborhoods of Boston for people interested in powerlifting, weightlifting, and strength training overall.

The goal was to create a space that was accessible to those without access to their own vehicle or disposable income to support acquiring home gym equipment or the cost of a commercial gym membership.

As a person of color, Joseph felt inspired to create a space where there were other people who looked like him engaged in the sport and training together. As a woman, Laurie wanted to share the empowerment she felt when handling a barbell with other women who found strength sports intimidating.

The team initially trained together in commercial gyms but quickly realized that the space was insufficient for their overall goals. Team members felt uncomfortable and intimidated walking into a predominantly white, male-oriented space for the first time, showing a potential barrier that might limit people of color and women from pursuing their goals.

With that, the journey of finding a suitable space began.

Breaking Barriers: Engaging Underserved Communities

urban powerhouse community

Urban PowerHouse primarily serves the neighborhoods of Hyde Park, Dorchester, Mattapan, and similar areas with low to moderate-income populations.

The training space is much closer than other powerlifting and strength sports gyms, appealing to those without vehicles who rely on public transportation or with multiple responsibilities who cannot travel the 45+ minutes needed to train at other facilities. Membership and coaching are offered on a sliding scale based on household income to remove financial barriers, and competitive athletes often receive financial assistance to pursue their goals.

Urban PowerHouse also offers a student membership program that offers a lower price point to start learning about strength training and engage with a supportive community from a young age. It also keeps them out of the gym when they should be in school. 😉

Overcoming Obstacles: Challenges Faced by Urban PowerHouse

urban powerhouse team

One of the biggest challenges Urban PowerHouse faced on their journey was finding a suitable space within budget. Fortunately, they forged a partnership with their landlord, who supports the cause. However, with expansion on the horizon, the organization could run into further issues.

Another significant issue is helping the Boston fundraising community understand the importance of this organization. It’s not just a gym; it’s a service that supports mental health, physical health, and positive engagement with at-risk youth and underserved communities.

Strength in Stories: Urban PowerHouse's Impact in Action

urban powerhouse bench press

Urban PowerHouse has seen several success stories over the years. Laurie spoke of one individual who was told by medical professionals that he may never lift again after an injury. Urban PowerHouse collaborated with his medical team and offered coaching and rehabilitative support to help him safely reach his goals. In return, this member shares his story with other people of color in the community to raise awareness.

Another burgeoning success story is the recent partnership with Brooke Charter School. The school started a powerlifting team but lacked the space to train. Through the partnership with Urban PowerHouse, they can use the space to train and develop their athleticism while engaging with experienced athletes.

And, for many members and athletes of color, Urban PowerHouse is the only place they feel comfortable and able to be themselves.

Building Tomorrow: Urban PowerHouse's Future Vision and Goals

urban powerhouse competition

Urban PowerHouse continues to strive toward more community partnerships. Recently, they held an event with the Home Base Foundation supporting local veterans of color, which inspired the team to explore more opportunities to collaborate.

As the organization grows, the search for a larger space is on the horizon. In the future, the Urban PowerHouse team may look at expanding to other cities and areas to support underserved communities.

Join the Movement: How You Can Help

urban powerhouse weightlifting

Financial support is always appreciated and helps fund future projects and expansion efforts. You can donate directly here.

Alternatively, spreading awareness is an excellent way to help. Share this post and tell people about Urban Powerhouse—spreading awareness is entirely free and just requires the click of a button.

You can also follow Urban PowerHouse on Instagram. If you’re in Boston or surrounding areas and want to volunteer, please reach out!