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MACEDONIA -- Laurene Neval recalled the time about six years ago when she needed to lose about 25 pounds. She found the support to reach her goal with TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), a nationwide organization.
Neval, a Macedonia resident, and a TOPS member and leader since 1999, now is the non-profit company's area captain for the 18 chapters in Summit and Portage counties.
"We're about support and accountability," she said. "You're accountable to the scale and the group. It's a proven formula for success when you have someone else besides yourself to be accountable to."
There are TOPS chapters in Macedonia, Sagamore Hills Township, Twinsburg, two in Cuyahoga Falls, two in Ravenna, and six in Akron along with ones in Kent, Mogadore, Streetsboro, Norton and Green.
Neval said the goal of TOPS is "to be healthy, not to lose weight."
"It's a lifelong journey," she said. "It's a journey we're all in together."
TOPS features weekly weigh-ins and programs where members can give out tips and learn information about sensible weight loss.
In her new role, she is in charge of 18 chapters where the groups discuss what are called action steps.
"You have to be in the action stage to be successful," she said. "If you're not, it doesn't matter what you do. Your mind has to be right. We talk about why you are who you are. It's a lot more than saying, 'Just eat less and exercise more.'"
Neval found inspiration in her mother, Strongsville's Jennie Zavesky, who died in August 2016 at age 87. They were founding members of the TOPS Brecksville chapter along with two other friends.
"My mother gave me strength," she said. "She was a tough little woman. She always smiled and laughed for everyone in the room."
To join, there is an annual fee of $32 with weekly dues of $1. A website for members has information as well as weight-loss tips, facts and success stories, while members also receive a bi-monthly magazine.
In the Nordonia Hills area, TOPS is located at Macedonia City Hall, 9691 Valley View Road, each Thursday at 5:30 p.m. for weigh-in and 6 p.m. for the program, and at Elmcroft of Sagamore Hills Township, 997 West Aurora Road, each Wednesday at 6 p.m. for weigh-in and 6:30 p.m. for the program.
Other TOPS locations include the Twinsburg Public Library, 10050 Ravenna Road, each Thursday at 5:45 p.m. for weigh-in and 6:15 p.m. for the program plus two locations in Cuyahoga Falls at United Presbyterian Church, 2819 Hudson Drive, each Thursday at 8:15 a.m. for weigh-in and 9:30 a.m. for the program or Northminster Presbyterian Church, 104 Portage Trail, each Monday at 6:30 p.m. for weigh-in and 7:05 p.m. for the program.
For more information, go to the website at www.tops.org, contact Neval at 216-832-1106 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mike Lesko: 330-541-9432