Community Wellness Takes Center Stage as Bertie County Focuses on Promoting Active Living

With support from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, Bertie County organizations are working to improve the health of the community by increasing recreational opportunities, including expanding services offered by the YMCA and revitalizing Blue Jay Park in Indian Woods. This investment is part of the Trust’s long-term commitment to improving the health of residents in the state’s most rural and under-resourced counties.

Bertie County YMCA, Inc. will receive $363,000 to expand youth recreational opportunities in the county. The YMCA plans to update equipment and hire additional staff to operate recreational and youth development programs in underserved parts of the community. The new staff will recruit volunteers, staff recreational facilities from open to close, and spearhead substance use and violence education and prevention efforts. The YMCA will also work closely with other community organizations, such as the Hive House and the school system, to create satellite sites for youth engagement.

“When I heard about the grant I cried like a baby because we are changing both culture and lives. There used to be no free play anywhere in the county but we’re changing that,” said Casey Owens, executive director of the YMCA of Bertie County. “On the surface, it may look like we are just opening up gyms for kids to play but it is so much more than that. We are encouraging an entire community to live better lives. We are teaching them a healthy lifestyle and at the same time giving them a safe place to play. And that’s not all; we are also providing needed job opportunities for this community.”

In addition, Bertie County will receive a $150,000 grant to revamp Blue Jay Park, located in the Indian Woods community. Working with the County, the Blue Jay Volunteer Fire Department – one of the state's only all African-American volunteer fire departments – is renovating the park adjacent to their firehouse. Construction on the park is already underway, and the funding will allow for the addition of a walking trail, a community building, and other needed amenities.

“Indian Woods Park has been around but it never really took off.  By breathing new life into the park, we are providing a safe place where the community can gather, exercise or just play. Right now, people in this part of the county don’t have access to such a place,” said County Commissioner John Trent. “This project, along with the work the YMCA is doing, is a great example of the momentum we have in our community toward improving our health and quality of life. Organizations and individuals across Bertie County are working hard to improve the health of our neighbors, which is changing lives and bringing economic development to our community. There is no doubt that all of these organizations working together will make Bertie a better healthier community.”

The funding is a part of a series of grants awarded by the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust to organizations across the state. Selected projects are driven by the community’s concerns, and the Trust works in partnership with residents toward sustainable, long-term change.

“Living a healthier life is about more than just access to health care. A major piece of the Trust’s work is looking at factors beyond the hospital walls that impact a person’s well-being. Supporting active living is just one piece of our mission to ensure equitable access to quality health care, economic opportunities and educational attainment in the communities we serve,” said Laura Gerald, president of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. “These projects will provide residents across the county with the ability to get out and be active. We are impressed by the tremendous energy we see in in the community and are excited to be a part of Bertie County’s journey toward better health.”

For more information about the Kate B, Reynolds Charitable Trust’s work, visit www.kbr.org.

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