EAGLE RIVER - Inside a Northland Pines fitness room, the laughter comes a little easier than the exercises.
"By God, we have a good time," Denise Simon said with a laugh.
Twice weekly, more than a dozen women sweat, strain, and snicker their way through the Strong Women fitness program at the high school. It's a lively atmosphere that Denise Simon says keeps her coming back.
"This is just as important physically and socially equally," Simon said. "And then to be dropped into this group of women, there's where the gift is."
Instructor Becky Jefferson helps lead the class of ladies, who range in age from 60 to 82.
"We laugh so hard, sometimes we have to stop, but we always keep going," Jefferson said.
In its second year, the Strong Women program helps aging women work through arthritis, balance, and strength issues.
"We've laughed, we've cried, we've shared stories," Jefferson said. "It's social wellness also."
As if they needed more reasons, Thursday added something else to laugh about: red noses resting on smiling faces.
The ladies decided to participate in Red Nose Day, a global effort that has raised $1 billion in its 25-year history to lift children out of poverty.
"These women give of themselves and they're always willing to give to the community around," Jefferson said.
The ladies spent several months collecting everyday items for Frederick Place, Rhinelander's homeless shelter. The women filled boxes with food items, diapers, and toiletries. The drive had special meaning for Simon, whose son lived in Frederick Place after he got out of rehab.
"I'm sure [our donation] makes an impact, but they need so much more," Simon said.
"Every little bitâ€"every can of coffee, every paper towel, every toilet paper rollâ€"absolutely helps," said NATH/Frederick Place Executive Director Tammy Modic.
Modic says the Strong Women's fun environment can have a ripple effect on the community.
"Exercise in general, it's a love-hate relationship, and I think there are times at Frederick Place that people feel that also," Modic said. "They don't want to be there, but they feel comfortable, so it's OK that they're there."
With a high comfort level of their own, the Northland Pines Strong Women want to continue to give back, bringing the smiles and laughter from their room out to anyone who needs it.
"After listening to Tammy explain how important the Frederick Place is to those people, I know we're going to do more," Jefferson said.
The Strong Women group hopes to do more for Frederick Place soon, offering to cook a meal for the residents later this year.