Refreshed: Sharing wellnessPublished 10:30am Thursday, October 4, 2012
Mower Refreshed ready to launch into new year with 3rd annual summit
In Adams, people share extra homegrown produce with a foodshelf. In Brownsdale, a business provides a fitness room for employees. In Austin, Bruins hockey players talk to elementary school students about making healthy choices.
But through Mower Refreshed, all these ideas come together.
“We already have what we need in our county to be healthy; we just need to share it,” Coordinator Sandy Anderson said.
The leaders of the grassroots community health initiative are preparing to kickoff another year at the third annual Community Wellness Summit Friday.
To Anderson, Mower Refreshed is more a movement than an organization. She described the movement as an umbrella where everything comes together under a common roof: Anderson receives an email from someone like a zumba or yoga instructor in a small town, and she promotes the classes through Mower Refreshed and its resources.
“Mower Refreshed doesn’t want to own those yoga classes — those are uniquely those person’s, but we want to promote them,” Anderson said.
Another example is the Shooting Star Trail. Mower Refreshed isn’t leading the legwork to extend the trail from LeRoy, Adams and Rose Creek into Austin, but Anderson said they’re playing a supporting role.
“Again, Mower Refreshed isn’t going to do that, but we’re going to promote and support those efforts to get that done,” Anderson said.
Mower Refreshed isn’t necessarily about creating projects, according to Anderson. It’s about sharing and championing the ways people, businesses and groups in Mower County are already working make healthy choices.
“It’s becoming a venue for people who are already making healthy choices easier by efforts and events to be able to go, ‘Now we have a go-to place,” Anderson said.
The idea is bring those ideas to everyone, and Anderson said she believes strongly that people shouldn’t have to sign up or apply to be work toward community health.
“Every community has the ability to make healthy changes; it’s just being honest about what their assets and liabilities are,” Anderson said.
Anderson and Mower Refreshed have already taken steps to identify some of those liabilities.
The story of Mower Refreshed
In late 2009, Mayo Clinic leaders approached officials at Austin Medical Center — now Mayo Health System in Austin — about engaging the community in health. That idea developed into community research in 2010 to determine the state of the county’s health and what issues most needed to be addressed.
Since its start, more than 180 citizens and more than 100 businesses or organizations have been involved in Mower Refreshed in some way, according to Anderson.
“That … really states that people already feel passionate about creating a county where making the healthier choices are easier for all of us,” she said
The abstract idea was for a wellness movement led by the public, and the idea is still developing three years later, largely since there isn’t a model from another county to use as a base.
“We’re building the airplane as we fly,” Anderson said.
Mower Refreshed will continue fitting the pieces together at the Community Health and Wellness Summit when leaders and the public will continue discussing and developing the four key focuses Mower Refreshed determined through studies — Healthier Choices, Mental Fitness, Workforce Wellness and Community Connections.
To Anderson, it’s important that these four focuses leading the movement were determined through research.
“Our focuses aren’t just somebody’s opinion or some organizations pet project,” she said. “It’s actually research based specific for our county.”
Each year at the wellness summit, committees based around the four focuses are given questions to discuss and the responses lead Mower Refreshed in the next year.
Last year, the community connections goal group asked how people hear about things. In response to that question, Mower Refreshed and volunteers built a Facebook page, developed the Refreshed website, started a booth at the fair, and they’re working to develop a Youtube channel.
Similarly this year, groups meeting on each of the four Mower Refreshed goals will discuss questions, and their answers will drive Mower Refreshed through the next year.
The movement is still in the infancy stage, so Anderson said this year will focus on developing action steps.
‘Willing to step back’
But the goal groups aren’t the only ones guiding things. Since Mower Refreshed is a community-based movement, Anderson stressed it often requires leaders to take their feet off the pedal and let the public guide the progress.
“I really am so appreciative to the many people that were willing to step back and sit in neutral a little bit and say ‘We don’t know exactly what this is going to look like,’” Anderson said.
While the medical center has been involved by funding Anderson’s position and helping with printing costs and other expenses, Anderson said they’ve done a good job of stepping back and allowing the grassroots, community-driven approach to pan out.
Securing other sources of funding can be difficult, as Anderson admitted it’s been challenging to land grants due to the economy’s state and other reasons.
“We’re pretty abstract. It’s not like we’re an organization that’s applying for a grant, we’re a movement,” Anderson said.
Looking ahead to 2013
Mower Refreshed does however have a hand in guiding some of the projects, but not every idea for Mower Refreshed takes off right away.
A person recently posed the idea of starting a harvest walk/run around Thanksgiving with the focus being on gratitude, but the idea was shelved because the idea didn’t have all the energy and wasn’t primed yet, according to Anderson.
But she promised that energy will be there next year, and she’s already working to set up collaborations with the YMCA and other agencies to make the idea a reality in 2013.
“It’s falling into place, but it’s just a matter of determining when is the right time for that event to happen,” Anderson said.
In the coming year, another goal will be to connect more with all the communities in Mower County. A key hub to connect into will likely be the schools, and Anderson said she hopes to have a few students serve as point people at all the high schools.
They can then share creative, fun ideas for things happening in the community to promote wellness.
Communities like Lyle, Adams and LeRoy all have different things going on, and Mower Refreshed is looking to share them.
“You know the fuel is there,” Anderson said. “They just may need the platform to say here’s what we’re doing.”
The hope is that eventually Mower Refreshed has an impact outside Austin, as other communities could decide to pickup the idea.
“All the things that are being created with Mower Refreshed aren’t copy-written,” Anderson said. “They’re to be shared.”
Maybe, Anderson speculated, they may add another challenge group in future years, but only if the community deems it necessary. But Anderson wants to see Mower Refreshed continue to grow in the community and be a place to share wellness ideas, but she doesn’t necessarily want health officials to have their hands firmly steering for the future.
“Our hope is that we keep our hands off of it enough so it can evolve as it needs to,” Anderson said.
Anderson said work by Mower Refreshed and Vision 2020’s community betterment goals are both paving the way to a bright future in Austin.
“It’s really a exciting place to live right now,” Anderson said.