I visited Athens one time before I began my service. I remember walking uptown, looking down the brick streets, and seeing these brightly “Live Healthy Love Athens” flags hanging from the lampposts. I really can't describe the feeling I had when I saw them, other than sensing I made the right decision moving from Virginia to Ohio. A year later I found myself serving Live Healthy Appalachia during my second AmeriCorps term and learned those beautifully-designed flags were one of the many community health initiatives linked to LHA.

When I first started COMCorps in 2015, I had no idea that it would have such a profound impact on me. During my first year, I had the opportunity to teach the Live Healthy Kids curriculum and to meet the staff (strong, vibrant women) of Live Healthy Appalachia. Right away, I fell in love with LHK and all the second graders. The more I was involved with the program, the more I learned about LHA and their mission. When I decided to serve a second year with COMCorps, I knew it had to be at LHA.

When I arrived in Athens almost four years ago, I didn’t know what to expect. Well, I had inklings -- in the form of farmer’s markets, quilt barns and long, windy country roads. On one Saturday morning, I decided to attend a heart health event and came across a table with folks from Live Healthy Appalachia. I had no idea who they were or what they did but after speaking with the staff at that time, I soon became interested and signed up as a general volunteer. It turned out that most of the volunteer opportunities didn’t match my schedule well enough, so I kept LHA in my back pocket of interests in case something came up. Let lo and behold, something did.

Our Board of Directors provides distinct insights about the health and well being of the Athens community. One of our newest board members has a particularly deep history with Live Healthy Appalachia, one that dates back to a time when she was the only other staff member for the organization aside from our director. “I was the first AmeriCorps COMCorps member at LHA when Louise DiLullo was the executive director,” Michelle Oestrike recounted. Michelle’s service assignment was to coordinate the children’s program, which was then called Food is Elementary.

Now, as the president of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce, this northeast Ohio native continues to support what LHA has done for the community. “What LHA does is encourage people to know that healthy eating is accessible and doable. They have a great way of collaborating with other organizations. Together, all of these food based organizations make these changes possible.” What at first seemed impossible has become possible.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted included our very own Live Healthy Appalachia as part of the Ohio Business Profile program that is featuring not-for-profit organizations for the month of May.


Hillary Tabler
Emerson Crowl
Autumn Foley
Lucy Eckelberry
Hannah Mose
Joaquin Dagostino
Kayleigh LeMaster
Ashley Lockhart
Nicolas Benencia
Abby Stroh
Megan Cheadle
Mae Reese
Savannah Stover
Trinity Neel
Lexi Jordan
Baylor Cooper
Ruby Krisher
Kylie Snider
Abygayle Smith
Emily Beha
Nicole Bean
Jozlyn Bew
Lakyn Bowser

There will be a reception for all flag contest winners and their family on Monday May 1st at 6:30 p.m. It will be held at the Mayors Office in the Athens City Building, 8 East Washington St. We will be first on the city council agenda for a special presentation. Hope you can join us for this exciting event!

All good things must come to an end. So why not end on a fantastic note? After twenty-two weeks of learning how to make healthy meals and how to stay active, the kids of Live Healthy Kids are going to celebrate under one roof. This celebration is better known as LHK Night, and it will certainly be a fantastic ending to a good year.

“I am excited about getting all the different kids from different schools together and show their families what we’ve made [throughout the year], LHK Coordinator Laura Olbers says. “It’s cool to see the kids eating the food [they learned how to make] and meeting the junior chefs [from Hocking College]. Everybody involved has a lot of fun!”

When a picture takes hold of a moment, it can have the power to take hold of us. In that split second visual journalist Alexandria Polanosky takes a picture, the moment transforms into a story.
Working toward a photojournalism degree at Ohio University, Alexandria came to the world of photography during her last two years in high school. “When I was started applying for colleges, I realized I could do [photography] for a job. That’s how I kind of fell into photojournalism here,” the Pittsburgh native said during our interview.

But it’s not just the act of capturing moments that Alexandria cares about. It’s about the moments themselves and the stories that each captured moment unravels. With these stories come new connections with the people she meets. “I really love getting to meet so many people in the community and being involved in so many organizations,” she continued. With a strong interest in documenting agriculture and food, Alexandria has been using her talents to help promote Live Healthy Appalachia’s mission of healthy eating and active living.

When spring is in the air, so is that urge to feel renewed and inspired. The My First 5K (MF5K) training program does just that -- to bring that feeling closer to fruition by providing free hands-on training geared toward first time walkers, joggers, and runners. This year, the six-week training culminates in Race for a Reason on Saturday, April 22. This is the day when all of the hard-earned work is paid off. This is the day 5Kers race for their reason.

“The camaraderie and the schedule, which feels really comfortable, keeps me coming back and looking forward to each week,” says Katherine Hammond, a 5K trainee. “I enjoy running but have had an off and on commitment with it. After talking with a long-distance friend who runs regularly, she advised me to sign up for a 5K and find a running group. The next day I saw the LHA training program on Facebook; it felt very serendipitous!”

When people feel supported, they build their confidence to make changes for themselves. When they realize they have this power to make changes, they help others do the same. For Ruth Dudding, this support network is what keeps the Athens community working toward a goal to be healthier and stronger.

For our new Ask an Expert segment, Live Healthy Appalachia sat down with Ruth to talk about the importance of forging collaborations and building relationships. As a Certified Health Education Specialist at the Athens City County Health Department (ACCHD), Ruth has been known as an expert in teaching about healthy food and cooking. Her strengths, however, lie in her innate ability to connect people and provide support. Within the 17 years at ACCHD, Ruth has seen many exciting changes and with these changes, a cultural shift in the health mindset of the Athens community. Her role as a CHIP facilitator has also given her insight into what people are concerned about and how this course has given them the tools toward a healthier lifestyle.

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