V.I.? Program aims to promote wellness, strengthen sense of communityA newly organized, grassroots organization has formed with the goal of improving the health and wellness of New Richmond area residents.
By: By Jeff Holmquist, New Richmond News
A newly organized, grassroots organization has formed with the goal of improving the health and wellness of New Richmond area residents.
The launch of the local “Vitality Initiative,” a group made up of representatives from a cross section of the community, was inspired by recent efforts in Albert Lea, Minn.
The southern Minnesota community, population 18,000, was chosen as a pilot project for “Blue Zones,” a national wellness organization directed by author and explorer Dan Buettner.
In writing his popular “Blue Zones” book, Buettner teamed with National Geographic and American Association of Retired Persons to identify communities around the world where people live long and highly productive lives.
The research was whittled down to a handful of basic concepts that might help people add to their life expectancy and optimize the years they live.
Eventually the Blue Zones organization chose one community, Albert Lea, to incorporate some of their findings.
What resulted was a year-long effort that helped people create sustainable, healthy habits and also helped build a sense of community in that city.
The Blue Zones work, coupled with First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” health initiative and other community efforts directed at wellness, led to early discussions of similar efforts in New Richmond.
A group of community leaders, many of whom are graduates of the Leadership Trust Initiative that is conducted by the New Richmond Area Community Foundation, has been meeting for about a year to hash out the details of beginning a local initiative.
“We are community-minded individuals who are interested in helping our community come together,” said Darian Blattner, executive director of The New Richmond Area Centre. “It started with the idea of health and fitness. But now we’re about making New Richmond healthier, in terms of wellness and in terms of building a stronger community.”
Representatives from the school district, Westfields Hospital, city, local businesses, fitness groups, St. Croix County, UW Extension, Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College and many others have been part of the initial discussions.
Blattner said the Vitality Initiative group not only wants to tackle new projects to achieve its purpose: “Promote individual and community health and well being.” The members also want to help “accentuating the good stuff that’s already happening” in the area, he said.
“Everybody is focused on what’s best for our community,” Blattner said. “It’s not about what’s in it for us or our organizations. We want to help people to come together, and help them become healthier.”
Initiative members hope to get involved in efforts to reduce childhood obesity; improve healthy food choices at local restaurants; identify healthier choices at local grocery stores; expand involvement in recreational and fitness events; promote greater individual involvement in faith communities; among other things.
“We want our community to flourish,” Blattner said.
While the Vitality Initiative will start off as a year-long project, Blattner said he envisions the organization expanding and thriving for years to come.
“This isn’t about doing something for six months or a year and we’re done,” he said. “There will always be things we can do to improve health and wellness in our community. We hope we’re around for a long time.”
The Vitality Initiative meets at 3:30 p.m. every second and fourth Wednesday of the month in the New Richmond Civic Center. Anyone interested in being a part of the group can attend. For more information, contact Blattner at The Centre, 715-246-2252.
Over its next two meetings, the Vitality Initiative will be discussing the creation of a logo and developing a “branding” strategy. The group will also begin to form a list of parameters to determine what events and programs it will endorse or be involved in. The organization also hopes to develop a website where information about wellness, fitness, community-building and other such events can be posted.
The Vitality Initiative is hoping to sponsor a major kick-off event in late summer or early fall. From now until then, V.I. will be endorsing events that fit within its stated mission.
The first event the group is backing is the Thursday, April 28, appearance of Doc Adolph Brown.
The presentation, sponsored by JA Counter and Associates, is at the New Richmond High School Auditorium and focuses on improving healthier personal and family relationships.
The “Real Talk with Doc” event is at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $20, with proceeds donated to the New Richmond Area Community Foundation for its Leadership Trust Initiative.
Earlier in the day, Brown will be speaking to New Richmond and Somerset students on the topic of personal integrity, diversity and bullying.