“I have grown in Christ, healing and healed my brokenness, learned to serve others and love like Christ.” Ayrie Crump
As the former ultimate ZUMBA instructor in the Paducah area, Ayrie Crump began each ZUMBA class with a prayer circle inviting each person to focus on the positives in life and pray for those in need. Through Christ everything is possible including good health, happiness, and inner peace.
Church was a huge part of Crump's life growing up. She and her two brothers were raised in Paducah and grew up attending Second Cumberland Presbyterian Church on 10th and Boyd Street where her Dad was Pastor. It was here, in the church, she found strength. "Whatever assignment God would lead me to do, in obedience and submission, I would humbly do unto him."
Physical fitness is another one of Crump's passions specifically her love of dance and weight lifting. "I've always been physically active." she said. In high school she was a member of the Drill Corp, an extra-curricular activity that involved dance and a good sense of rhythm. She also sang in the high school choir. After graduating from Paducah Tilghman in 1973, Crump stayed in town and began higher education courses at Paducah Community College.
Crump's first job after college was at Western Baptist Hospital (Baptist Health) as a nurses' aide. After leaving the hospital, she went to work for the American Red Cross as a lab technician. Her last position before retiring from her career job at USEC was Environmental Technician as Sampler and Laboratory Technologist working in Analytical. She worked at the former Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant for 24 years.
While working a full-time job, Crump started a Mary Kay business. It was the late 90’s and she was a single mother with two children. After two unsuccessful marriages, she pulled up her big girl panties and started a third job as an independent beauty consultant. In this position, she could work from home and make extra money for her kids. Her mark on the beauty business was so successful that Crump was awarded a car leased and paid for by the company for two years. Then, an illness struck the family and she had to pivot.
Crump didn’t stay single long. She was introduced to her future husband George by mutual friends. He worshiped at Ninth Street Tabernacle Ministries where Crump started attending. The two began dating and were married in 2001. Both had children from previous marriages that are now grown; Martin Grubbs (45), Mia Cooper (42), and Maurice Crump (40).
Through the years, Crump has remained steadfast and true to her exercise regimen. In 2010, she attended an exercise class while visiting family in Richmond, Virginia. She said, “I thought I was going to a kickboxing class. The lady at the gym suggested I take a ZUMBA class and I was hooked,” she continued. "The Latin beats and the easy movements made my heart race like I was running a 5K."
When Crump got back to Paducah, she became licensed to teach ZUMBA. The following month, she taught her first class.
A new calling
It all started at Crump’s church with a small group of women who called themselves ‘the Fab Five.’ The ladies invited their friends and like most conversations among church-going southern women, news got around fast. The Latin-style dance craze 'cha-chaed' its way from friend to friend and quickly grew to 80 participants.
As mentioned, church has always been a big part of Crump’s life so it would make sense to start her new venture at a place where she’s most comfortable. Her motto is God first, family then career.
Crump said she’s an introvert by nature and her interactions with people are always intentional and with purpose. Suffering from chronic anxiety, Crump strategically plans her moves and exercise helps to keep it in check. She said part of her purpose is to serve the Lord in whatever way he deems fit, even if that means stepping out of her comfort zone. “I am called as all believers are, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. I feel that I may be the only Jesus some people see.”
With a strong commitment to the Lord and to physical fitness, Crump’s ZUMBA classes quickly outgrew the church facility and moved to the Julian Carroll Expo Center in downtown Paducah. While teaching at the expo center, Crump taught two classes each day twice a week with 250 participants per class. Co-instructor Clarissa White played a big role in growing the classes. She and Crump were a dynamic duo.
The last ‘pay as you go’ ZUMBA class taught by Crump moved to the Paducah Board of Education offices a.k.a. Choices Education Center at 800 Caldwell Street. Crump and White would dance and lead from the auditorium stage to ‘fire up’ the ZUMBA troops. They encouraged each person to dance and ‘live’ the ZUMBA lifestyle.
The ZUMBA lifestyle motivates people to get off the couch and move to a beat that’s fun and burns mega calories. If going to ‘the gym’ isn’t appealing and getting on the dance floor is, then ZUMBA might be for you. It’s a fitness party with both slow and fast rhythms, addictive dance steps, and lively tunes.
All the moves are taught by an expert teacher like Crump. Though she may be small in stature she’s a force to be reckoned with on the dance floor. She’s strong, determined, and motivated to seek out those that need her the most.
“I am drawn to the left out and looked over...to those persons that are underserved,” said Crump. There’s no doubt she encountered individuals during daily ZUMBA instruction that benefited from her words of encouragement. Part of her mission was to go where the Lord leads. The other part was to give back all that was donated during those years prior to her paying gig.
In total, $25,000 was donated to charity, nonprofit, and other organizations plus tons of canned goods. Either $1 or a can of food got you in the class. None of the instructors were paid. "To much is given, much is required. That was the beauty of the ministry," said Crump.
People take dance classes for a variety of reasons and one is to lose weight and improve overall health. Crump was one of those that practiced what she preached and led by example. One of her physical impediments was hypertension. Incorporating cardio into her daily routine was one way to battle the controllable disease.
Another reason to join the ZUMBA exercise group was for companionship. We’re social creatures and the need to bond is undeniable. Crump said, “The biggest trick of the enemy is making us feel we are the only one." Crump has anxiety and had to learn to push past her fears. Knowing there are others like you while supporting each other through group activities that are fun and social is one way to meet the enemy head on. Zumba classes are designed for participants to never feel alone. The more people the better.
The diversity of participants in the ZUMBA exercise class was incredible. People from all walks of life came to dance. Persons of different age, ethnicity, wealth or lack of, men/women, all standing within six feet of one another dancing to a Latin beat and moving with some salsa flavor. It was a beautiful thing.
The energy in Crump's ZUMBA class was electrifying. Crump would push herself and others to the brink, sending out messages of support via headset. She would reach out to those that seemed lost and invite them into her world by dancing alongside them or inviting them on stage. God's presence was felt through her smile, demeanor, and encouraging word. By following His lead, all good things were possible.
It wasn’t until 2014 that Crump stopped teaching two classes a day to join the team at Energy Fitness on Highland Church Road teaching ZUMBA Gold and Cardio Dance. She also substituted for Silver Sneakers and Yoga. During this time, she became an AFAA (Athletic and Fitness Association of America) personal trainer.
As the years rumbaed along, the constant wear and tear on her body took its toll. Crump taught Zumba Gold at the Senior Citizens Center until her back pain stopped improving. She studied the art of belly dance for a while with Margie Hyde. Finally, after 40 years of physical fitness, it was time to retire. Now, Crump takes her dog Stella for walks and does chores around the house.
Stella is a rescue dog from the McCracken County Humane Society. She was adopted at 10 weeks old in December of 2014. “She is more of an emotional support buddy,” said Crump. “She’s a mix between a rat terrier and probably a hound. The dad is unknown.” she said. At first, George wasn’t crazy about getting a dog. Crump said, “Now they are best friends. She even helps him do yard work.”
Crump started the Mary Kay business again. She said she picked it up because she loves the company, their philosophy, and the products.
The pandemic has affected the personal interaction that Crump was most interested in as a Mary Kay consultant. However, she pivoted. The family has taken a moment or two adjusting to her Zoom meeting but everyone’s on board and business is booming.
For a short period of time, you may have missed Crump’s post on Facebook. She said she stepped away from social media for a while due to all of the negativity. She jumped back on after restarting her business. She said, “I limit my conversations and posts to things that are lovely, true, helpful, and bring hope and peace.” Crump continued, “I live a simple life, stay away from drama, negativity and divisiveness. I take care of my home, family, and friends.” It's a beautiful life and there's much more to be written.