For several months, Voices into Action, the YMCA Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health Program (YMCA REACH), Wake County Human Services have been collaborating with local faith communities to increase access to physical activity.
The initial meetings provided a platform for faith congregations to voice their wants and needs. It also provided a space for some to discuss ongoing efforts, including where they’ve been, where they are, and where they want to be. Congregations learned about each other’s health ministries and its successes and challenges.
Everyone agreed that one of the goals was to reduce the barriers to physical activity. For example, hosting fitness classes within the confines of the faith congregation could reduce barriers because members could cease worrying about getting to other places for similar services.
To address this barrier, VIA, Y REACH, and WCHS gathered to create a menu of resources and services that each organization could provide. Some of the resources included, fitness class certifications with the YMCA, grant writing support from VIA, and a one year partnership with DHHS focused on creating policy changes, and more. There were many more from the congregations to choose from, but one of the most popular were the fitness class certifications with the YMCA and the ability for pastors to have a free three month membership to the YMCA, with pre and post health evaluations. Why pastors? Community leaders and congregations expressed concern about the health of their pastors and thought it would be the best place to start. A pastor is its congregation’s leader and possibly the best to lead by example.
I was overtaken when I saw and heard the joy and excitement bouncing off the walls in the well-lit room that sunny morning at the YMCA. Several congregations were present that morning, including but not limited to Agape Word Fellowship, Compassionate Baptist, Martin Street Baptist, Mt. Peace, Wesleyan First Church of Deliverance, and Treasuring Christ. After two hours of dialogue, the team concluded that there should be another meeting, but its purpose would be to gather pastors from different faith congregations, to discuss the multitude of options with them and ultimate get their blessings or better said “put their stamp on it”.
On Saturday, May 2nd, Strengthening the Black Family is hosting its 33rd Annual Conference where a small panel will discuss the faith community physical activity initiative. All relevant information and timelines will be discussed with time to ask questions and/or share comments and concerns. This is the proposed timeline:
The YMCA will pay for 50% of the course’s cost and the faith community will be responsible for the remaining amount. Class begins June 6. The organizations will each gain certifications in different group fitness activities with the ultimate goal of combining resources, meaning that the different trainers can rotate among the congregations or members visit the various congregations for the class desired. Please contact Helen Herrera at email@example.com for more information.