Enhancing a Legacy
They say it takes a special person to be a teacher. But for Carol Holtz, it was the only thing she ever wanted to be. “My mother was a teacher and so was my grandmother,” she says. Not only did Carol follow her matriarchal
legacy into teaching, but also into TOPS.
Her grandmother, Esther Manz, founded TOPS Club Inc. in 1948 with the goal of helping people Take Off Pounds Sensibly. “It took me awhile to figure out what Grandma was doing, but now I think back to certain instances, and I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s why she never ate those chicken wings,’” laughs Carol. “She never pushed anyone to join TOPS. She simply led by example.”
It’s been 25 years since Esther passed away, but Carol sees her grandmother’s legacy in members every day. “As a young girl,
I went to the TOPS 40th anniversary celebration. Just hearing how she’d helped to change so many lives was inspirational,” she says. According to her granddaughter, Esther was a progressive thinker who constantly looked for new and creative ways to keep members moving toward their goals of a healthier lifestyle. “Grandma wanted as many helpful tools as possible out there. The online stuff is really taking off—Esther would’ve recognized it,” Carol says. Carol helps fill that niche as TOPS Virtual Programming Administrator (also known as Meeting Facilitator).
It’s All Online
When she’s not busy teaching, Carol is at home coming up with her weekly online message for the 2,500+ TOPS members who call the internet their chapter home. “I work my way around what’s going on,” she says. The messages rotate around themes like food, emotions, exercise and getting into the right state of mind. Carol may also issue a different challenge each week with reasonable expectations, such as an extra 10 minutes of movement every day.
At the start of a meeting, members log in. Some include their weight or weight loss for the week, but it’s not a requirement. “Some members focus on the numbers on the scale, but for the most part, we’re all here to get healthy,” Carol says. “It’s pretty neat to see all the different time zones signing in,” she says. “I had a woman in South Korea, and she’d sign in and say, ‘Good morning,’ while we’d all say, ‘Good evening,’” she says, chuckling. “Now she’s back in the States and is part of a chapter in Texas, but when she was overseas, she still needed that accountability and support that TOPS gives.”
Learning Something New
For Carol, it’s important to stay timely and relevant with her online meeting topics, so she looks to TOPS resources for inspiration. A go-to favorite is the Real Life guide. “It’s helpful to talk through it, no matter what age group you are or how many years you’ve been in TOPS,” she says. “You always learn something new.” She also goes through various parts of TOPS News. “If people are in need of motivation, I send them to the success stories,” Carol says.
Meetings last about 30 minutes, but as the saying goes, time flies when you’re having fun. “I love being able to show members all the helpful tools and information that is on the TOPS website,” Carol says.
Even though they primarily communicate online, Carol says her members are very encouraging and make a point to touch base with one another. A few online members have even attended Recognition Days this past year and finally met in person.
As Carol sits down at her laptop, her mind wanders back to last week’s discussions. For her, it’s not just signing in for 30 minutes several times a week. It’s responding to emails on a daily basis and thinking of new challenges or topics for her weekly newsletter. It’s facilitating the TOPS online member Facebook group. It’s about being there for more than 1,000 members and helping them on their own individual journey—whatever that may be. “I feel right at home being the Meeting Facilitator because at the end of the day, my main focus is still teaching,” Carol says. She glances at an old photo of Esther and then smiles, saying, “She was a role model, friend and teacher to so many, but she’ll always be just Grandma to me.”