Photo – submitted: (Left to Right): Mary Anne Zimmerlee, St. Katharine Drexel Parish Wellness Committee; Kim Miller, President and CEO of Beaver Dam Community Hospitals, Inc.; Leslie Covell Hershberger, Blue Zones Project Community Program Manager; Cindy Spangler, St. Katharine Drexel Parish Wellness Committee, Father Mike Erwin, St. Katharine Drexel Pastor; Kim Lafler, St. Katharine Drexel Parish Wellness Committee; Mary Ann Firehammer, St. Katharine Drexel Parish Wellness Committee; Ya-Fen Szczesny, St. Katharine Drexel Parish Nurse and Wellness Committee.
St. Katharine Drexel Parish of Beaver Dam Celebrates Designation of Improving Well-being
Blue Zones Project® Dodge County held a ribbon cutting celebration today for Saint Katharine Drexel Parish, the most recent faith-based community to become Blue Zones Project Approved™ in Dodge County and the first in Beaver Dam. This designation demonstrates St. Katharine Drexel Parish’s commitment to helping its parishioners improve both their spiritual and physical well-being.
Father Mike Erwin commented at the ribbon cutting ceremony, “To me, what was enlightening about this is it was embracing what is already occurring in our society. People really want to be healthier. They really want to work on well-being issues. People want to park in the lower parking lot and walk up the hill to church. The eyes are open that this is embracing a process that is already under way but Blue Zones Project may be helping to speed it up some, to organize it, and name it.”
To earn this designation, Saint Katharine Drexel parishioners formed a wellness committee who sought out ways to bring greater well-being to the congregation and the community they serve. The parish optimized the physical environment and added well-being programming while incorporating more healthy food and movement into their regular gatherings.
Parishioner and wellness committee member at St. Katharine Drexel, Cindy Spangler said, “My experience has taught me that it is just basic sound personal values and community values. Eat better and move more. Connect with your family. Connect with your church. Connect with your community. That’s where all the loneliness and separation comes from. I like the Power 9® principle that talks about finding that quiet time because as the world gets more chaotic, I need to find that center point so I can see who I am.”
St. Katharine’s Parish buildings now have widespread signage designating the grounds as a tobacco-free campus. Bike racks are also available, encouraging members to bike to activities at the church. The parking lot farthest from the church entrance has been designated a Blue Zones Project parking lot with signs reminding those that use the lower lot how easy it is to add 100 or more steps to their day by parking farther away. The parish prayer garden has a small-scale walking labyrinth where one can engage in an active prayer journey. A straw bale learning garden was added last summer to the prayer garden. The sisters of St. Katharine have a small garden near the church as well. Produce from the garden and other healthy snacks have been incorporated into parish meetings and special events. Meetings also include desk stretches to encourage more movement.
At a recent parish-hosted plant-slant outdoor potluck, parishioner Mary Ann Firehammer’s Sweet Potato Black Bean Salad was voted as best dish by fellow attendees. Recipes, along with other Blue Zones Project communication, are a regular feature in the weekly church bulletin.
Programming at St. Katharine’s also supports overall well-being. A Blue Zones Project purpose workshop was held last summer at the parish. During the workshop, attendees identified their unique gifts and considered how they may wish to share those gifts with others in the community. St. Katharine’s promotes a variety of volunteer activities both in the church and outside of the church including prayer shawl ministry, eucharistic ministry, bereavement support group, caring heart ministry, meals on wheels, and ministers of hospitality, just to name a few. Parishioners also have programming offered to them to improve their physical and social well-being. This includes monthly blood pressure checks, grief awareness for caregivers group, and recently added yoga classes. These opportunities make healthy choices easier at St. Katharine Drexel Parish.
Strong social relationships are important for everyone’s health. The Blue Zones Power 9® principles of connecting with others through family, friends, and faith are supported through family fun nights at St. Katharine Drexel. These events create opportunities for multiple generations to not only spend quality time with their biological family, but also to improve relationships within their church family.
“I first decided to get involved with the Blue Zones Project as part of the Food Environment Committee as it aligned with my personal beliefs about food and nutrition,” said St. Katharine’s Parishioner and wellness committee member Kim Lafler. “The more I learned about it, I realized it was things my family was already doing. When the opportunity came to work with Blue Zones Project as part of St. Katharine’s, it was a no brainer. This is what I want for my individual family and it is also what I want for my parish family. That is why I got involved and I am really excited that we have made it to this point!”
Brought to Dodge County by Beaver Dam Community Hospitals, in collaboration with Sharecare, Inc. and Blue Zones, LLC, Blue Zones Project is a community-by-community well-being improvement initiative—designed to make healthy choices easier through sustainable changes to environment, policy, and social networks.
For details about becoming a Blue Zones Project Approved organization or general information about Blue Zones Project, Dodge County, call 920-212-8511, or visit dodgecounty.bluezonesproject.com