The city of Waupaca is among a handful of U.S. communities selected for a national healthy community grant.
Waupaca’s Parks and Recreation Department is receiving a $50,000 grant through the National Recreation and Parks Association.
“I put it together in five days,” Aaron Jenson, the city’s recreation program supervisor, said of the grant application.
Last fall he learned of the grant opportunity from Connie Abert, of Waupaca County’s UW-Extension office.
With the assistance of City Administrator Henry Veleker, Jenson sought letters of recommendation from various people in the community, including representatives of Riverside Medical Center, the Waupaca School District and UW-Extension.
Waupaca’s grant request was for $40,000, and the city was awarded $50,000.
The city will now become part of ACHIEVE – Action Communities for Health, Innovation and Environmental Change.
An initiative of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ACHIEVE brings together concerned citizens to create healthy communities and provide local leaders with education and resources to solve specific health problems.
ACHIEVE began in 2008, and since then, 149 communities have received training, technical assistance and support to become healthier places.
Jenson said that Waupaca is one of five communities selected for the latest round of grants.
“The new communities will be mentored by communities that received it last year,” he said.
This is the first year for such a format, and Davenport, Iowa will be Waupaca’s mentor.
Jenson will be traveling to Atlanta Feb. 22-24 for his first meeting about the program.
A committee of about 10 community members will travel to Atlanta in April for training.
The committee will be called Waupaca’s Community Health Action and Response Team, and Jenson plans to target the schools, hospital, UW-Extension, businesses and community groups to seek team members.
The grant dollars will cover all of the travel costs.
He said the Parks and Recreation Department has some ideas for how to use the grant dollars but that the city’s team will ultimately make those decisions.
“I think anything that promotes activity in the community will work,” Jenson said.
Parks Superintendent Russ Montgomery said some communities have done tobacco cessation programs in their parks.
Others have worked on wellness policies with their schools, planted urban gardens, added to their trail systems, focused on safe routes to schools or made stairwells in buildings more attractive so that people take the stairs instead of the elevators.
Since becoming the city’s recreation program supervisor last year, Jenson has successfully applied for two grants.
The first was a $4,000 grant last fall from the Waupaca Area Community Foundation for an after-school childhood obesity prevention program.
Called “Learn & Burn,” the program is held at the recreation center on Tuesdays and Thursdays and includes 25 minutes of homework help, healthy snacks and 60 minutes of physical activity.
Targeting children in third through fifth grades, Learn & Burn just started back up for the second semester. Jenson said parents can sign up their children throughout the semester by calling 715-258-4435 or visiting the rec center’s office.
At a time when tight budgets make it difficult to add programs and staff, grants obviously help, he said.
Of the latest grant, Jenson said, “It’ll just be a good experience working with all these groups. They’ll probably be good contacts and resources, even 10 years from now.”