Faith Community Programs Boost Health of all Ages

faithFaith communities in Winter Park, Maitland and Eatonville have successfully launched a wide range of programs designed to promote whole person health.

Activities that have impacted the lives of young and old, include developing a community garden, helping Girl Scouts get fit, and conducting health screenings and assessments for members.

The programs were made possible by grants made in June 2010 to local faith communities by the Winter Park Health Foundation through its Older Adults and Community Health Work Groups. The grants were designed to support the development of health programs in faith community settings and to inspire the grantees to include health in their mission and work.

The following are some of the grant-funded projects that have been completed:

• St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church (Maitland) began planting a community garden on Feb. 11, 2012 drawing more than 50 eager participants. Future plans include holding monthly gardening classes and educational sessions on related topics to encourage participants to establish gardens on their own property based on what they are learning from the church garden.

“This has been an amazing journey,” said Rosemary George, a volunteer member of the Health and Wellness Ministry team who oversees the garden project.

“The contribution of time and energy from people in the parish community has been beyond expectations. To have over 50 people show up on a Saturday morning to shovel dirt and plant flowers and vegetables was an amazing event.

One of the best lessons has been to never underestimate the impact something like this can have on children. To see a nine-year-old looking at the plant diagram and directing other children on where to plant was heartwarming.”

• Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church (Eatonville) conducted a Circuit Training Fitness Boot Camp with the Girl Scouts in January. Fifteen Girl Scouts and eight parents participated in the Boot Camp which was focused on inspiring youth and parents to develop healthy lifestyle habits, with an emphasis on healthy eating and the importance of daily physical activity.

A 30-minute lecture was conducted on nutrition, the benefits of exercise, the importance of adequate rest, and self-esteem.

The lecture was followed by 30 minutes of cardiovascular and toning exercises and jogging. Immediately following circuit training the Girl Scouts were hydrated with water and fed a nutritious lunch. Parents and scouts also engaged in a question and answer group discussion with the Faith Community Nurse.

The Girl Scouts committed to making changes to improve eating habits such as having breakfast in the morning and getting involved in more activities.

In addition, they asked the Faith Community Nurse to conduct a Youth Fitness Night on March 29 during the Youth Bible Study class.

• Warner Chapel Outreach Ministries Inc. (Winter Park) conducted a 90-day exercise and lifestyle education program with health screenings and assessments assessments. Twenty people participated.

Program participants reported they were not working out at all at the beginning and by the end they indicated they were working out three to four times a week. Together, participants lost a total of 65 pounds and said they felt very knowledgeable about their nutritional needs.

The program “helped me to start my journey to a healthy life,” said one participant. “I am still making wiser eating choices and exercising throughout the week and I don’t plan to stop when I reach my weight loss goal. This program was/is truly life changing. I learned a lot and I pass the information along to others. It was truly a blessing to be able to have access to this type of high-quality education and training at no cost – I could not afford to pay for the level of service that we received.

The final thing I will say is this program was outstanding because it was structured in ways that met the needs of the group.”