November 10, 2012 9:54:20 PM
STARKVILLE -- The Starkville citizens who met in the Oktibbeha County Hospital education room Friday morning might not seem to have much in common.
Together, however, they make up the Healthy Starkville Committee's most recent effort to promote the overall well-being of the city.
The meeting represented what Bonnie Carew, rural health program leader for the Mississippi State Extension Service, called the second step of a coalition made up of leaders from different segments of the community.
A summit held by the Healthy Starkville Committee and Blue Cross Blue Shield in September drew a large crowd that laid out some "wishes" for ways they wanted to see Starkville improve.
Friday morning, the process of turning those wishes into realities began.
"The folks in this room represent a lot of resources and an awful lot of background and knowledge," Carew said. "They know a lot about resources in Starkville."
Carew and Ann Sansing represented the MSU Extension Service and directed Friday's meeting. Carew said they will continue to keep an eye on the groups, but they are simply facilitators. The three groups that the almost 30 people were split into will eventually be self-sufficient.
"Our job is to get the community to work together," Carew said. "We let the groups go off on their own, and we just bring them back every three months and see where they are."
Each of the three groups will address different aspects they see as essential factors to healthy living. One group will look at youth development, particularly summer and after school programs, one will work on promoting existing resources within the community and one will look at installing recreational trails in the city, a program dubbed, "Rails to Trails," because it involves building walking trails along the paths of existing railroad lines.
"They will meet a lot more frequently in those individual groups," Carew said.
When the groups do meet again, Carew said she will have four questions: What's working? What's not working? What do you have to do to increase awareness of what you already have? What are the challenges for that?
"To me it's extremely simple," she said. "It's just about getting people to talk."
Carew and the Extension Service helped with a similar project a few years ago, only this effort was focused on healthy aging for Starkville's older population. The result? A senior citizen center was built, "without any extra dollars or cents to the taxpayer, and that is a huge deal," Carew said. "No matter what side of the political aisle you sit, you have to realize that there are not unlimited resources, so we have to work together to find them."
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