Our guest blog today comes from Kate Long of Try This West Virginia, an innovative and community-driven health movement taking hold across the state.
1. Who are you, and what’s your role at your organization?
I’m Kate Long, co-director and founder of Try This West Virginia, a growing statewide healthy-community network, created to help knock West Virginia off the top of the worst health lists, one community at a time. I oversee the Try This programs.
2. How does your organization contribute to improving health in the region?
Try This is creating a statewide network/movement of local people who want to create healthier communities by expanding opportunities for healthier food and physical activities. Try This helps West Virginians lower their communities’ risk of chronic disease in several ways:
3. Can you share one inspiring story about improving community health from the work you’ve done?
Last year, we gave a minigrant to a Clarksburg team to create a community garden in a drug-infested neighborhood. The neighborhood pitched in in a big way. They raised $17,000 in contributions and donations (not counting volunteer time) to match the $1500 we gave them and created not only a garden, but a neighborhood park.
Four other neighborhoods, including one in a neighboring town, are already copying them, and two people who own empty lots have offered them for gardens. The neighborhood has started meeting, and have already put up swing sets for kids and they are planning low-income housing. As local resident Jay said, “The garden made me feel proud to be from Monticello Avenue, for the first time.”
This story is echoed in project after project, all over West Virginia. When volunteer time is added in, we are getting an eight-to-one return on our grant dollars.
4. Why is community health important to you and how do you think it impacts or influences community development?