Springing into healthier options

Healthy Communities Month sees an assortment of activities lined up for Woolwich residents

Woolwich residents have plenty of options over the next month to improve their health and the health of their community with the annual Woolwich Healthy Communities Month.

Organized by the Woolwich Healthy Communities c ommittee, numerous hikes, community clean-up days, and tree plantings are planned, along with the Taste of Woolwich, and a new Spring on the Trail bike ride. And it’s all free.

Now in its 11th year, committee chair Inga Rinne says community response is encouraging.

“The attendance at various events, whether it’s the Taste of Woolwich or the hike, or various one off events that we’ve had, has been really gratifying to the point where you think this is a serious part of the fabric of our community by now. I think that people look forward in the spring to having some events that really let them focus on a couple things, one the whole getting outside and recognize that it’s spring. But also I think it really has developed a strong sense of community in people,” Rinne said.

In terms of attendance, she says the Taste of Woolwich is one of the most popular events. Local food producers will gather at Woodside Bible Fellowship on Apr. 18 for the event, enabling residents to make connections to where their food comes from. They’re also including local artists this year. Both food producers and artists will have items for sale, and attendees are encouraged to bring cash, as there won’t be a debit machine.

The Spring on the Trail Ride is the last event on May 14. Organized by the Woolwich On-road Cycling Group, the event will see cyclists meet at the Woolwich Memorial Centre for a non-competitive 50-56 km ride.

“That’s the ride that will go from Elmira to Millbank, with a stop at Anna Mae’s, which I’ve heard is an excellent restaurant,” Healthy Communities member Joy Finney notes.

The tree plantings have grown in popularity too, with more church groups joining this year to help out.

The committee decides which events to hold from year to year based on what they think the community will be interested in and what they have the manpower and resources to actually make happen.

“For instance, for two years we had the try a tri event where we had a mini triathlon and that was incredibly successful thanks in large part to Mark Bauman who really took the lead on that and pulled people in and it was a very nice event,” Rinne said.

They’d like to add an event in the future involving the local businesses and the environmentally friendly practices they use. There was a proposal to do a scavenger hunt where people go around the community and find different interesting historical details, but nobody was up for the challenge of organizing it. She’s hoping that will happen eventually.

“One of the other things that has been quite heartening is the community clean-up day, which we’ve been doing for a long time now. Independent of us, some communities have taken up doing it on their own, which is exactly what you want to happen. That effort has really grown over the years,” Rinne said.

She notes that garbage begets garbage, so if areas are clean then people are much less likely to throw waste where it doesn’t belong.

Rinne sees these activities as a good opportunity to take advantage of spring, despite the fact it doesn’t look much like that season outside right now.

“I think that a lot of these events have multiple appeal. The clean-up is really remarkably satisfying and on top of that you get to meet some community folk that you might not have met. The Taste of Woolwich, it really is a wonderful opportunity. We produce a lot of food in our township but sometimes accessing that is like ‘oh gosh I really don’t have time to drive all over hither and yon to source local food.’ So there it is all in one spot. On top of that we give out all of the contact information for the vendors,” Rinne said.

Volunteers contributed nearly 3,000 hours of their time last year to put on the event, which stretches from mid-April to mid-May. The first activity is Woolwich Community Clean-up Day on Apr. 16.

Dr. Emma Allen-Vercoe will speak about gut health at the Taste of Woolwich event.

“We have some really interesting speakers that are coming this time,” Finnie said. “We have a presentation on making nutritious broth from local ingredients, so Jill Weaver will be doing a cooking demonstration and sharing tips for us on that.”

The Local Vocals, Woolwich’s community choir that was created last year, will also be performing that night.

“Somebody read somewhere that one of the easiest ways to create community is with a choir. Fortunately, we have a couple of very enthusiastic retired music teachers who said ‘oh, sure, we can put that together.’ [They] have put a tremendous amount of effort making it both worthwhile and fun and you get a real cross section of people who just show up, who don’t necessarily have any impressive vocal skills, they just like to sing and I’m amazed at what she can whip up,” Rinne said.

The Trees for Woolwich group has a goal to plant one tree for every Woolwich resident, so roughly 23,500. They’ve planted 15,000 thus far and have a busy spring schedule ahead because there’s only a three-week window in the spring and then again in the fall for good tree planting weather.

“In addition to the stuff that we plant we seem to be making some progress around getting farmers to plant windbreaks and living snow fences and that sort of thing,” said Rinne.

The events run from Apr. 16 to May 14. A full list of activities is available at www.healthywoolwich.org.

“It’s about making sure that we have first of all, a real community, that we’re not just a bedroom community for Kitchener-Waterloo and the whole little push to really make sure that we both personally and in our community as a whole are just that little bit healthier.”

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