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Task force undertakes area health

Health
Mar. 15, 2010 @ 12:45 AM

HUNTINGTON -- "Hi, I'm Huntington, and I'm out of shape."

It's that admission -- akin to the one echoed at thousands of AA meetings across the country -- that Kenova pastor Steve Willis said area residents need to be ready to make.

"We have got to quit saying 'We're not that bad,' and consciously say that we're tired of being last or fifth or 10th from last. As long as 'last' is in the sentence, we don't want to be there," he said.

The pastor of First Baptist Church in Kenova and Yvonne Jones, executive director of Ebenezer Medical Outreach Inc., are encouraging residents to speak up and stand up and become part of the Healthy Huntington task force, which will convene its first meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 18, at Huntington's Kitchen, 911 3rd Ave.

"You see that address? '911?' This is an emergency situation," he said. "We need to identify the people who are passionate about revolutionizing the health and wellness of the Tri-State area."

Willis and members of his congregation worked with the kitchen, now operated by Ebenezer Medical Outreach, and Jamie Oliver when he was in town filming for his "Food Revolution" show, set to premiere Sunday, March 21, on ABC.

"During the filming of the show, I really became impressed that we need to take lemons and make lemonade out of these reports that Huntington is an unhealthy and unhappy community," Jones said. "We have to take charge. What kind of image do you want the city to have? We need people who are ready to take a negative and turn it in a positive."

The task force is open to anyone in the community who is ready to work, can bring something to the table and is passionate about bringing change, Willis explained. Business leaders, government officials, religious leaders, health care providers, community leaders and interested parties are invited to help formulate the plan to create "a more healthy and happy Huntington."

"The idea behind this is, first, mobilization. We need to see who's interested and what they can offer. Second, we need to visualize what we see as a 'healthy Huntington,' and then we need to do a full-scale assessment of the city and see what our needs are, see where the gaps in services are and what barriers there are to living a healthy lifestyle," Jones said. "The task force is just a way of bringing people together, to work together."

Willis said the reports about the health and disposition of Huntington's residents may have come from outside the community, but that it is up to people in Huntington to start the attitude change.

"We can't control what somebody out of town thinks about us. We can only control our own behavior," he said. "They didn't ask people in Colorado about our eating and sleeping habits. They didn't ask people in Colorado how happy we are. The change starts here."

Jones said the time has come for the shift, and it will happen whether five or 50 show up to Thursday's meeting.

"We have to do it, and we're going to do it. There's no doubt in my mind that it's going to happen," she said. "The question is, do you want to see it happen? Do you want to be a part of it?

"We need people to put their hand to the plow, so to speak, and understand that the time has come to make the change."

For more information about the task force or to RSVP for the meeting, call 304-529-0753, ext. 3.

Healthy Huntington forum

WHAT: Ebenezer Medical Outreach Inc. is forming a task force of community members to meet and discuss ways to improve the health of Huntington residents. People are encouraged to share ideas, time and make a commitment to the health of the region.

WHEN: 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 18.

WHERE: Huntington's Kitchen, 911 3rd Ave. in downtown Huntington

RSVP: Call 304-529-0753, Ext. 3.

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