PACE of Vilonia: More than a fitness center

by Karl Lenser

The Positive Athletic Club Experience (PACE) Fitness and Nutrition center in Vilonia began in 2002 by Dave and Cindy Bowling as a way to improve the health and wellness of the community. It also has provided a ministry of community enhancement and caring.

PACE is a fine example of how a small business can use its resources and internal drive from its leadership to give back to a community that has suffered from the impact of several horrific tornadoes that roared through Vilonia over the past few years. The Bowlings and their PACE facility have aided in bringing the community of Vilonia a sense of giving and bonding that has greatly enhanced the lives of many residents in this city.

Dave recently shared the PACE story with 501 LIFE:

How and why did you decide to open a fitness facility in Vilonia?

We moved to Vilonia in 2001 for the great school system and for the small town values. We wanted to contribute to the community instead of just taking advantage of the benefits we moved here for. We opened PACE as a ministry to the community in 2002.

Where did you grow up and how did you meet?

Cindy grew up in North Little Rock, and I graduated from Batesville High and then went to the University of Arkansas and earned a degree in agriculture with an emphasis in genetics. We met in Little Rock when I was attending UALR and was working on an MBA. My full-time job is with the Arkansas Forestry Commission. I have been there eight years and most of my work is focused on tree improvement and the forest seeding nursery.

What are some things that you and Cindy have done for the Vilonia community?

I serve as vice president of the Vilonia Chamber of Commerce, and I also have donated my time to serve as a starter for Vilonia’s home track meets. We have donated our PACE center to the high school as they use it for several classes throughout the school year. In addition, the cross-country teams have also used PACE as a training facility, and we also have donated several memberships for various community silent auctions.

How did you respond to the 2014 tornado?

We used PACE as a check-in location for displaced animals and provided 1,000 square feet of space for donated pet food and supplies as a way for the displaced animals to be taken care of during the recovery period. We also helped out Vilonia Physical Therapy by allowing its operation to use our facility because their building was destroyed by the tornado.

Describe your philosophy of life and living:

Being followers of Jesus Christ.

What’s your best fitness advice for others?

Take care of yourself; otherwise you will not be as effective in taking care of the rest of your family.

How about some exercise advice for 501 readers?

Do something! Don’t get bogged down in the details of trying to achieve the perfect workout. If you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight.

If you had $1 million, what would you do?

Pay off all debt. Purchase all new equipment for PACE. Purchase land for development and set up a trust fund for my family.

How have the tornadoes changed Vilonia? 

I believe there is a spirit of resiliency that has always been at the core of our residents, but it has been brought together in a common awareness of the important things in life. We just adopted a new slogan for T-shirts and hoodies that says, “VILONIA STRONG.” That slogan is intended to reflect the resiliency of our people as well as to highlight one of the goals most people have as members of PACE Fitness and Nutrition.


A Conway resident, Karl Lenser is the director of wellness programs at Hendrix College. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse. An accomplished runner, he can be reached at [email protected].