By Sue Cody
Clatsop County’s Way to Wellville has a chance to share the local flavor and scenery as it hosts fellow Wellville 5 communities from April 18 to 21. The national gathering is a chance for the Wellville 5 to share successes, challenges and ideas, face to face.
“We learn from each other on how to build healthier communities,” says local Wellville Strategic Council member Paulette McCoy. “Even though we are spread across the U.S., we all have similar goals and obstacles to face in making our communities better places to live and thrive as healthy people in mind, body and emotional health.”
Muskegon, Mich., Spartanburg, S.C., Lake County Calif., and North Hartford, Conn., will each send five members to visit and become immersed in projects the local Way to Wellville has implemented.
The idea behind The Way to Wellville is to have communities combine their resources, cooperate and invest in healthy living rather than spending trillions of dollars on health care caused by unhealthy lifestyles.
The annual event helps participating communities share what works and get some coaching from founder Esther Dyson and the national Way to Wellville team of experts.
“The national team acts like a personal trainer, but for a community,” says Dyson. “We advise, we remind, we introduce community members to sources of funding, technical experts, vendors, journalists and the like. But as with a personal trainer, the client is still in charge and owns the results.
“One of the principles we preach is that ideas and intent are not enough; you need engagement and commitment. The best way to make that happen is to do it with other people: to learn from them, to inspire them, to compete with them, to encourage them. As the saying goes: if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”
Last year, representatives met in Spartanburg. “That city did an amazing job,” says McCoy. “We are both excited and anxious about the pressure of hosting The Way to Wellville National Conference here.”
Clatsop County will be new territory for each of the other Wellville 5 attendees.
“We are hoping we can have a bit of sunshine or at least a day or two without rain to show off our beautiful county.”
Three areas of focus for the gathering are obesity/nutrition, economic development, and early childhood education. Around these discussions, participants get to sample some local flavor, from a tour in Seaside and a crab feed in Warrenton to a trolley ride in Astoria.
Providence Seaside Hospital will host a lunch and demonstrate its food-focused wellness initiative. A panel discussion on food systems and obesity will follow, with Wellville 5 representatives discussing challenges and successes related to institutional food system improvements.
Dinner at the Bridgewater Bistro will demonstrate its farm-to-table practices using its kitchen garden and local food producers.
Economic development and its role in community wellness will be the focus of Day 2. A tour of downtown Astoria and discussion of its remarkable turnaround will include a tour of the Astoria Armory as an example of public/private partnership.
A “pop-up” pay-what-you-can lunch will be held at the Baked Alaska Annex, followed by a screening of “Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope,” at the Liberty Theater. The film is the follow up to “Paper Tigers,” which addresses Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).
On Day 3, a presentation and panel discussion will address trauma-informed care and early childhood education, which are focus areas for Muskegon and Clatsop County Wellville teams.
Rewards of gathering
“I believe it is important for each Wellville team to visit the other locations to observe each other in their own environment,” says Doemland.
All communities come together to see, teach and experience what the local environment has to offer.
Dyson says there are two huge benefits of the national gatherings: learning from each other and forming connections that last throughout the year.