When we think of being healthier, the typical scenarios come to mind — getting back to the gym after the holiday season; eating a few more salads and not so many sugary treats as a part of resolutions in the new year; and generally taking care of our overall physical health. These things are very important. Health and wellness are components of caring for our physical selves. Other components of health which may not jump to mind immediately are mental and emotional health. The way that we deal with anxiety, crisis, depression and a host of other potential symptoms is important as well. If these symptoms lie unaddressed, they can be an unhealthy and challenging presence in our lives. I would also put forth a few more subtle ‘healthy’ behaviors I believe to be an integral part of the overall equation, as well — healthy relationships, fulfilling roles and a sense of purpose and belonging in life.
I am proud to say that through the many partners and programs Kishwaukee United Way supports, all aspects of how ‘health’ is defined are being addressed day in and day out in our community. Fostering physical health and wellness is one of the main components of the YMCA, one of our funded partners. Epilepsy Resources educates community groups, schools and classrooms about the many facets of seizure disorders and how to take action in a variety of circumstances. Voluntary Action Center teaches classes to seniors addressing nutrition, diabetes education and fall prevention. A facet of early childhood education centers like The Growing Place and Children’s Learning Center is the balance of physical play with early learning —developing motor skills and physical strength alongside intellectual learning and development.
Addressing the emotional health realm, many of our agencies offer counseling, support groups and interventions that address topics across a wide variety of circumstances and situations. Northwestern Medicine Behavioral Health’s Ben Gordon Center addresses issues of substance abuse and psychiatric supports for local patients. Family Service Agency’s counseling staff offers resources in many areas of general counseling from divorce mediation and senior interventions to the delicate care of trauma victims seen through the Children’s Advocacy Center. Agencies like Youth Service Bureau and Youth Outlook provide a framework of tools and support for youth and teenagers dealing with issues at home, anger management, coping techniques, and gender identity issues, to name a few. Crisis support is offered through Safe Passage where clients are dealing with having been survivors of violence, working on strategies to live stronger lives with new coping tools and strategies for success.
In addition to supporting the parter agencies I spoke about (23 in total) Kishwaukee United Way addresses community health in several ways through our specific programming and the initiative work that we do. Our 211 information and referral system is a mechanism connecting vital services to the people in our community that need them, simply by calling 2-1-1 and asking for help. We address the financial health and stability of residents by offering tax preparation support programs for low income and senior residents through AARP/VITA tax sites and myfreetaxes.com as well programming a robust series of free workshops on money management topics during Money Smart Week each April. I would submit that we offer the chance for purpose, engagement and a sense of community through our many volunteer opportunities. Our annual Day of Caring, the Target MLK Volunteer Days that took place this past week, and the myriad of opportunities we have on the Board and Committee level for volunteers contributes to civic and community engagement and a connection to service in our local area. These roles — helping to lead our organization, supporting our projects and helping us program activities all help to sustain our important work and bring folks together in a meaningful way.
So my shout out to you all this month is this…get on out there and get healthier! If it is putting down the donut and dropping in to a fitness class, so be it. If it is talking to someone about the dark times that seem to taking over the bright times, find a capable, listening ear. If it is about connecting to service opportunities that will lend richness not only to YOUR life but to the world and to somebody else, let us help you find an opportunity to connect in this way.