Grass Lake Wellness Team Looking
Historically, foundations fund projects in isolation. But we know making isolated improvements usually won’t impact an entire community. This knowledge made the Board of Directors of the Chelsea-Area Wellness Foundation (CWF) stop and think. What would make it easier for most of our citizens to have the option to move more, eat better, connect with others & avoid tobacco & other unhealthy substances (the CWF vision)?
We looked for a different model than traditional grant-funding and found part of what we wanted with the Vitality Project in Albert Lea, MN. In 2009, with the help of a different foundation, Albert Lea undertook an effort to impact the things they know to make a difference in people’s health – nutrition, exercise and living in community. Interested leaders in Albert Lea worked with community organizations in a position to bring about change in community wellness – local government, schools, religious and service organizations, food establishments, health care providers, the Chamber of Commerce and others.
They built a team that worked with experts from the foundation. A 10-month, wellness related project was developed & implemented.
We liked what we saw, but felt our long-term presence and five separate communities called for something different than the project in Albert Lea. Believing a sweeping plan would be most effective, the CWF initiative involves joint planning and funding of a community-wide, front-loaded, comprehensive wellness initiative (CWI) in each of our five towns. Initial efforts will be followed by continuing collaboration to maintain and expand gains.
Before we begin work in a given community we’d like the community to identify people to spearhead a CWI. This team should be made of people excited about our vision and community wellness and be representative of the primary community organizations. Our Board refers to these teams as Wellness Coalitions.
Once the Wellness Coalition is established we will ask the Coalition to complete a civil assessment. The assessment will measure the community’s capacity – or the depth of resources, especially human, available to pull off this major effort. Assessment questions will explore previous collaborative efforts in town, citizen activities, leadership styles and other measures of civil engagement.
We will use the civic assessment and meetings with community leadership to help the CWF prioritize the order in which interested communities, in concert with the CWF, will undertake a CWI.
During planning the CWF will provide guidance and expertise and the communities will bring their innovation, community goodwill and volunteers to the table. The final plan will highlight ways for residents to eat better, move more, connect in healthy ways and avoid tobacco and other unhealthy substances.
A commitment to impact the wellbeing of an entire community is big. But we did our homework & we think our chances of success are high. High enough for the CWF to risk funding. High enough to ask community representatives what the community is willing to do to create a place where anyone who comes to town knows immediately it’s a community committed to the wellbeing of its residents.