DUNBAR, Fla. — As Black History Month continues, Fox 4 is committed to highlighting the people and businesses in Southwest Florida who are sharing their passions and giving back to the community.
Alphonso Hopson opened Al'z Divine Fitness just over a year ago. It's Dunbar's first Black and veteran-owned gym, and it's already changing lives.
"I'm just trying to be that positive change inside Dunbar," Hopson said.
Every day, Hopson hosts several 30-minute high-intensity workout classes inside the gym. His goal is simple: Make the community that raised him healthier.
The Dunbar native discovered his passion for physical fitness during his time in the Army. From there, he worked as a personal trainer for 13 years at larger corporate gyms, but he wasn't fulfilled.
That's why he opened Al'z in February of 2022.
"This is the first black and veteran-owned fitness studio out of the heart of Dunbar, so it's something that I'm proud of," he said.
Data from the CDC shows major health disparities within Black communities. Black Americans are 50 percent more likely to have high blood pressure and twice as likely to die from heart disease than white Americans.
Those disparities have affected Hopson personally. His mother, father, and sister all passed at a young age.
"If they would have just understood the fundamentals of exercise and eating healthy, they would probably still be here," he said.
And with every step, Hopson's mission of making Dunbar healthier is coming to life.
Judith Smith frequents Al'z Divine Fitness. She's proud of what Hopson has accomplished, but even more proud of herself.
"Since December, I've lost 17 pounds. So that's one for me," Smith said.
She's part of the nearly 55% of Black Americans who live with high blood pressure, and since coming to the gym, her blood pressure has come down.
"I'm trying to get our culture and our people to understand the importance of taking care of yourself," Hopson said. "We have to do this.
To learn more about Al'z Divine Fitness and Hopson's mission, visit Alz Divine Fitness LLC.