Impact: Resident Wellbeing
If the Pathways to a Healthy Kansas program aims to “make living healthy an easy, familiar and expected part of routines and traditions,” how should that be accomplished? Through promoting healthy eating, physical activity, community engagement or tobacco cessation? The answer is yes. All of the above. From every partner possible.
“The Southwest Bricktown Project was unlike any I’ve ever worked on before. I’ve bragged about it to colleagues from all over,” said Justin Combs, Parks and Facilities Director, City of Hutchinson. “Multiple organizations came together, and everyone was steering in the same direction. We were able to take a park that previously only had a small picnic shelter, and turn it into a destination with an expansive playground, walking trails, proper lighting, and a larger shelter suitable for gatherings and birthday parties. This was a 100 thousand dollar project that the city only had to spend 10 thousand dollars on.”
This unprecedented cooperation reflects the possibilities of partnership in the Reno County area.
“The Pathways grant was the perfect way for us to partner with others in the community to really help put some finality to that park. It’s a great example of how a community can align themselves and make a deep impact, bringing public and private partnerships together, residents to the table, city leaders to the table, and all for the betterment of trying to help that neighborhood get the tools and resources they needed to be stronger,” said Lisa Gleason, Executive Director, United Way of Reno County.
SW Bricktown residents took charge of their neighborhood, leading the way in generating ideas and insight through multiple meetings and information-gathering sessions.
“The poverty rate was continuing to go up, and we knew there were people’s needs not being met. Something needed to change. We researched what was being done in other communities. We learned that there were other communities doing neighborhood work, really targeting an area, providing tools and resources, and progress was being made,” said Lisa, “It’s about what the residents really need.”
Above: Residents were encouraged to give input at several community meetings before the park was built, and took ownership of the vision for the space.
Above: A large, covered shelter is perfect for community and family gatherings, further increasing usage of the park.
Above: Neighborhood children frequent SW Bricktown Park, adding to the vitality and connection of the community.
(Photo courtesy SW Bricktown Neighborhood Center)
If community parks are where some of the youngest residents go to pursue a healthy lifestyle, then surely it’s common sense to not light up that cigarette while sitting near the playground---or not. Wayward cigarette butts and the hazards of secondhand smoke were something that Reno County residents were ready to be rid of with the help of Pathways funding.
Several organizations, including Heal Reno County, Communities That Care and CDRR (Chronic Disease Risk Reduction) collaboratively helped pass ordinances for tobacco-free school grounds, hospital grounds and worksites. Tobacco-free ordinances for all parks in Hutchinson and many parks throughout Reno County were passed. The partners worked together to provide signage and a Pathways implementation grant was used for public awareness campaign.
Above: “Young Lungs at Play” was the message of this clever and compelling “Tobacco Free Parks” video.
Spanning more than 100 acres in the northeast corner of Hutchinson, Dillon Nature Center is a local treasure, and a statewide attraction. But sometimes the familiar can be forgotten if efforts aren’t made to maintain--and raise--awareness.
“The Pathways grant helped cover the costs of an event we did, called Foodie Fest on the Trail,” said John Gallagher, superintendent of Dillon Nature Center. “Activities included a farm-to-table dinner and booths from local producers along the trail, as well as healthy recipe demonstrations.”
This unique event was a way to introduce new community members to the nature center, as well as reintroduce it to those who’d been before, but didn’t visit regularly.
“We had more than 800 people! It was a great opportunity to bring the community and provide information about healthy eating and active living.
Above: More than 800 attendees at Dillon Nature Center’s Annual Foodie Fest were treated to beautiful nature, delicious nutrition and engaging entertainment.
Across the city of Hutchinson, in the southeast corner, lies a lesser-known community resource for healthy eating and active living--Glenwood Gardens. This 5-acre plot of land was recently vacant, until the across-the-street neighbor had a vision.
“I really felt led to buy it. It took about a year for all the pieces to fall into place, but honestly it felt like divine intervention,” said Chris Tecklenburg, of Tecklenburg Farms. “Initially we wanted to start an organic urban farm, but then had a vision to be more mission oriented, and raise public awareness of what it takes to raise produce.”
Chris’ wife Shawna left her job as a massage therapist after 20 years to pursue this new passion with her husband--putting her hands to work in an entirely new way. “I was inspired to promote healthy eating after having lunch with my kids at their school one day. There was a big difference between what my kids had packed for lunch, and what the other kids had on their trays. Kids need more exposure to fresh fruits and vegetables to begin making those healthier choices,” said Shawna. Purchasing the land, building high tunnels (like greenhouses but without heating and cooling) and the back-breaking work of preparing the soil, planting, and harvesting weren’t the only hurdles the Tecklenburgs had to overcome.
“We quickly realized we would need some kind of post-harvest facility. When you have five acres of produce, you need a designated area to wash, rinse, store and prepare everything you’ve grown. The Pathways grant helped us build what we needed, and without it, things might have gone to waste that were processed in time or properly,” said Shawna.”
Now that they’re better prepared to process all of their produce post harvest, the Tecklenburgs hope to grow something else--more public engagement and awareness of Glenwoods Gardens, the education and outreach effort of their farm.
“I want to get kids interested in gardening. Where does a carrot come from? What does it look like pulled from the ground? Some kids don’t know. We’d like to get schools out here and give them the hands-on experience of growing their own food. There are so many ways we want to get involved in the community.”
Above: High tunnels, or hoop houses, create the ideal environment for plants to grow nearly year-round, soaring as high as Chris Tecklenburg of Glenwood Gardens Health and Wellness Foundation.
Above: Shawna Tecklenburg shows off the peppers growing in the high tunnels well into the fall.
• Glenwood Gardens
• SW Bricktown Park
• Foodie Fest at Dillon
• Tobacco Free Parks Video