United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region


Tag: Health

Out of the Shadows: ASK and Children’s Mental Health Awareness

by Kellie Cochrane


I had the good fortune to spend some time at Advocacy Services for Kids (ASK) this afternoon.  ASK helps parents navigate the often challenging children’s mental health system and also teaches parents how to best support and advocate for their child in a variety of situations.  We’re honored that ASK will be our May feature story on our website.

May 5-11 is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and this year’s theme is Out of the Shadows: Exposing Stigma.

“Exposing stigma is a topic that is very near and dear to our hearts here at ASK,” says Youth Involvement Coordinator, Krissy Dristy.  “We’re always working toward eliminating stigma for families and children in regards to receiving help for mental health, we want everyone to be able to be happy and healthy.”

In 2010, the National Alliance on Mental Illness reported that only 20% of children and adolescents with mental disorders would receive treatment.  Lack of mental health resources often leads to failure in school, criminal activity, and, in come cases, suicide.  Organizations like ASK are working to make sure the necessary resources are available to all families struggling with mental health issues.

At United Way, we also believe all families deserve every opportunity to live their best life.  So I encourage you to check out ASK or the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health to find out more about how you can help eliminate stigma.

Mental Health Awareness

Healthy Behavior Challenge

by Kellie Cochrane

Our water cooler, covered in messages from our competitors at Big Brothers Big Sisters

One of our focus pillars at United Way is health, and we’re passionate about helping everyone in our community live well.  We’re also passionate about the health of  our staff, which is why our wellness program leaders decided to up the ante a little: with a healthy behavior challenge against Big Brothers Big Sisters staff!

This is an eight week challenge that seems relatively simple: each week we introduce a healthy behavior into our lives,  so over the course of the weeks we continue to build these habits.  This is week 1 and it’s all about water, we’re supposed to be getting in 64 oz a day. Next week, we start incorporating 15 minutes of exercise into our days.   Week 3 we have to include a fruit or veggie at every meal.  Weeks 4 through 8 continue to impact our diets: week 4 we have to start the day off with a healthy breakfast, week 5 we have to pack healthy lunches and week 6 we kiss the drive through goodbye with no fast food.  Week 7 we’ll be bringing our own snacks, because vending machines are out.  The final week, the challenge that got a few groans from our group, is no pop or candy.

The best part about this challenge is that the weeks serve as building blocks, allowing us to stack up the healthy behaviors as we go and make them habits.  Each week we give ourselves points for the days we were able to stick to the challenges.  At the end of the week whichever staff has more points wins, and the other staff has to buy them a healthy catered lunch.  We’re really looking forward to committing to healthy lifestyles . . . and our BBBS catered lunch!  Now, we’re not allowed to tempt each other so there won’t be any doughnut deliveries, however, we did receive a special jug of water.  Last week, we put a photo on our Facebook page joking about how we had run out of water, well BBBS sent us a refill with plenty of inspiring messages.

You can be part of the challenge too!  Try incorporating some of these behaviors into your life for a few weeks, or better yet, make a friendly wager with a friend or family member to help keep you motivated.  The easiest way to begin a healthier lifestyle is through small steps, and all of these challenges will help get you there. We’re happy to partner with Big Brothers Big Sisters to keep us in check and we’re definitely fired up to put some points on our wellness board!

From the Campaign Trails: The 2012 Health Bus Tour

by Kellie Cochrane

Our enthusiastic group at our first stop, Senior Services!

In between the fun of our two great Community Campaign Kickoff events, UWBCKR supporters in Kalamazoo had the opportunity to board a charter bus and get a glimpse into the impact they have on the community.  Each year, the bus tour focuses on one of our pillars of Education, Income or Health, visiting three local nonprofits that partner with UWBCKR.  This year the focus was Health, and we were very excited to be able to learn a little more about the great work going on in our region.

Our first stop was Senior Services Center, which has an impressive facility and offers some of the most comprehensive services for the older population, from enrichment activities to Meals on Wheels.  I was shocked to learn that in many other communities if you call to have a relative or neighbor put on a Meals on Wheels program they’re often put on a waiting list for months, or even longer in some cases!  In Kalamazoo, once the call has been made the person in need of food will receive their first meal within 24 hours.  President and CEO of Senior Services, Robert Littke, says that one of the reasons they’re able to serve the community so well is because of their strong partnership with United Way.

Next up, we stopped at the Family Health Center, which has a beautiful brand new facility.  The Family Health Center is the only Federally Qualified Health Center in Kalamazoo County and has been serving the community since 1971.  Their mission is to provide quality, comprehensive primary care to all in a welcoming environment.  On our visit, FHC staff walked us through their intake process and payment setup to show how they help lower income patients get the care they need, from appointments to prescriptions.  It was great to see the level of care that went in to creating a positive environment for healing.  I was impressed to learn that the doctors are divided into teams, so if a patient needs an emergency appointment and the primary doctor isn’t available, someone else on the team can step in, who is equally familiar with that patient’s case and financial situation.

Our third stop was Community Healing Centers, an organization dedicated to providing integrated healing services to the community.   They provide huge support to people struggling with addiction.  They provide services across the spectrum, from helping with the detox process to finding a job once in recovery.  While there, we had the pleasure of hearing Mike’s story.  Mike was a former patient of Community Healing Centers, who, after an arrest, decided he needed help battling his drug addiction.  Mike shared how full his life is now that he is clean, and how much he values the help of the Center, as well as the people in the community who support these services.

Our final stop of the day was to join other UWBCKR supporters at Kalamazoo’s Community Campaign Kickoff event.  It was a great day learning more about the important work going on in our community.   It was even more powerful to realize that the organizations we visited were just a small representation of all of the amazing partners we have in this region.  Thank you to Senior Services, Family Health Center and Community Healing Centers for hosting us for the day and more importantly — for your dedication to our community’s health!

All Eyes on Youth: Support YUW’s Blood Drive

by Kellie Cochrane


There are a lot of great parts of the United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region, however, I have to say one of my favorites is our Youth United Way organization.  We have a collection of high school students from around the area who are working toward making their community a better place, while learning the finer points of the grant process and philanthropy in general.

On Monday, August 20th the students will be hosting a blood drive for Michigan Blood in the United Way Boardroom at our Kalamazoo location.  This drive does two awesome things: 1. It helps those in need and saves lives through blood donation.  2.  It raises money for our YUW students that allows them to impact the community in so many ways throughout the year. The blood drive starts at 4pm and we’d love to see you there!

Now, maybe you’re scared of needles, blood or youth (we hope not that last one).  Well, let me tempt you by saying in addition to saving lives and empowering the youth of our community you might also win a prize!  Some of our always generous local businesses have been kind enough to donate some gift cards for our participants.  Not to mention, I’m pretty sure you’re more than entitled to a cookie after donating.  So please, join us and help save lives and support our amazing students of Youth United Way.


Wellness Wednesday: Gold Medal Snacking

by Kellie Cochrane

Photo Credit: Today I Ate a Rainbow

Everyone seems to be coming down with Olympic Fever.  The 2012 Olympics in London have engrossed people around the world, and honestly, who can blame us?  It’s a lot of fun cheering on our favorites and watching the amazing feats of athleticism.

The irony of course, is that we are sitting mesmerized by our tvs for probably longer than we care to admit.  As one of my friends recently told me, “The Olympics are really turning me into a couch potato.”  As we all know, sitting on the couch watching tv for hours usually requires some snacks, which can be a dangerous combination.   Now, I’m not suggesting you stop watching the Olympics, that would be just downright unpatriotic, but there are some great tips out there for healthy eating ideas to help you stay on track while suffering from Olympic Fever.

Mom.me has a ton of great ideas for guilt free snacking.  Such as apples and almond butter, veggies and hummus and tuna crackers.  Almond butter also happens to be a favorite of Kerry Walsh, so remember that if you’re interested in dominating a beach volleyball game with friends.  All of these snacks are delicious and something the whole family can enjoy.

Another idea?  Try using commercial breaks as a chance for a little exercising.  Set a challenge for each break: 15 sit ups, 10 push ups or 10 lunges.   If you’re watching with a crowd, get into the competitive spirit and see who can do the most before the commercials end.  Now this might not be the rigorous training Olympians use, but it gets you up and moving!

So continue to enjoy the 2012 Olympics, with your own health and wellness in mind!

Wellness Wednesday: Local Produce Makes a Difference for Low Income Families

by Kellie Cochrane

Randi Dale and her daughter, Cheyenne Ruddock, 15, of Battle Creek buy produce using Double Up Food Bucks
Photo Credit: Battle Creek Enquirer

I love a trip to the Farmers Market.  I love fruit, I love veggies and I love an excuse to walk around and enjoy the summer.  And of course, it certainly feels great to support our locally grown products.    Now, the Battle Creek Enquirer has given me yet another reason to love Farmers Markets: increased access to healthy, local food.

Battle Creek has stepped up to participate in the Double Up Food Bucks Program which allows low income families who rely on the assistance of Bridge Cards or other food assistance programs to receive tokens to be used at the Farmers Market.  These tokens literally double their dollars all the way up to a $20 dollar value for Michigan produce.

Participants claim this program has really impacted the way they shop, allowing them to choose foods that are both nutritious and delicious.  Vendors see the difference too, one estimates that the DUFB shoppers are 40% of their revenue.  This program creates amazing change on both sides: families gain access to produce they might not otherwise be able to get and vendors benefit from increased revenue and more shoppers at the market.

The Double Up Food Bucks Program is an initiative allowing for positive change for the health of our community and stimulating economic growth.  Kalamazoo Farmers Market also accepts EBT and WIC benefits and offers a Project Fresh program.  So, brave the heat and plan a trip to your local Farmer’s Market because the products aren’t the only good that is happening there.

“Not Just a Merger, but a Transformation”

by United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region

CEO Mike Larson and COO Chris Sargent show off the new logo

July 10 marked a huge step for our regional community: the United Way of Greater Battle Creek and the United Way of Greater Kalamazoo merged to form the United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region (UWBCKR).

I know, it’s a mouthful!  But beyond the longer name this merger represents much more change to come.  Chris Sargent, COO of the new organization, put it best when he said, “We know hunger doesn’t stop at the county lines.”  We believe that this merger will allow us to more positively impact on a larger scale in the areas of Education, Income and Health.   Both the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo communities have shown they’re generosity and determination at improving the lives of others throughout the years, so we know that this new merger will position all of us to achieve.

So how did we mark the occasion?  The day started in Battle Creek with several community members, United Way volunteers, representatives affiliate agencies and other United Ways from around the State.  Speakers included:  Mike Larson, president & CEO of UWBCKR, Chris Sargent, Executive Vice President & COO of UWBCKR, Susan Balwin, Mayor of Battle Creek, and Tim Kool, UWBCKR Board Chair.

After a few wise words from these folks, we got to work!  Nothing like a volunteer project to start things off on the right foot.  People graciously pitched in to help package hygiene kits for Community HealthCare Connections, which serves as a mobile health clinic in Battle Creek.  Other volunteers worked on labeling books with reading strategy to be distributed to students in vulnerable neighborhoods to promote reading during the summer and with the family.

In Kalamazoo, community members gathered for a similar event.  Larson and Sargent spoke again on the importance of this change and the power of a regional organization.  Jim Stephanak, former Board Chair of the Greater Kalamazoo United Way also spoke and impressed upon listeners that this decision was not made lightly.  Many months, weeks and hours of volunteer input and dialogue between both communities took place before the unanimous decision for the merger was made.  He also commended the hard work of both sides, telling the crowd, “This is not just a merge, but a transformation.”

Those gathered in Kalamazoo, also lent a hand.  People gathered around a table full of children’s shoes to take remove price tags, take out that annoying toe paper and tie together the shoes for Family Health Center’s Back to School Bash.

After all of the excitement, our newly merged staff celebrated at the Kellogg Manor with delicious hor d’oeuvres, and of course what’s a celebration without cake?  All in all, it was a great day and on behalf of the entire organization, thank you to everyone who participated and continue to help make our communities successful.  Make sure to check out our Facebook for pictures and news coverage from the events!