Projects focus on physical activity
Urania Town Clerk Pam Sullivan sees the need for new playground equipment at “Potty Tannehill Memorial Park” every time parents walk the track with their children. Inevitably, the kids get bored, they start complaining, and the parents have to cut short their exercise.
But thanks to a grant from The Rapides Foundation’s Diet and Physical Activity Community Program, that’s going to change – and soon. The town was awarded a grant to put playground equipment at the popular park, allowing parents and their kids a fun way to engage in physical activity.
“When I see the kids, there’s nothing for them to do. I cannot wait until that playground equipment gets here,” said Sullivan, who estimates the equipment will be in place before summer’s end. “It will make such a difference.”
The Town of Urania received one of 12 grants awarded under the Foundation’s community program. The Foundation called for proposals in April and the response was so overwhelming that the board of trustees decided to award 12 grants instead of the intended four. The call was for projects that would encourage and improve physical activity and healthy eating among residents in Central Louisiana. An unprecedented 32 proposals were submitted.
Nine of the grants are for projects that address physical activity while the others are designed to make it easier for people to eat healthier foods.
In Hessmer, town officials also saw the need for new playground equipment to supplement the town’s walking trail. Town Clerk Susan Jeansonne pointed out that many working parents and grandparents found it difficult to use the town’s walking trail because there was nothing to occupy their children during their walks. The new playground area will be located inside the track so that parents can keep an eye on their children while they exercise. Said one local parent: “This is a great idea. The children will love this. I know it would also increase the use of our track.”
In Bunkie, the grant money will be used to construct exercise and playground equipment near Augustine Park Apartments, located on the east side of town. It will give neighborhood children and residents a place to play within walking distance from their homes, Mayor Mike Robertson said. “The children who live there have to walk a mile plus to get to the nearest park.”
The playground will provide a convenient, easily identified gathering place where residents of all ages from the housing complex and the surrounding area can enjoy family friendly recreation opportunities, health and fitness programs in addition to a broad mix of social educational and recreational programming geared to all age groups, income levels and ability levels,” according to the Albert L. Hayward Community Development Corporation, which is overseeing the project.
Other physical activity grants awarded this year:
The City of Natchitoches will construct a walking trail with fitness stations at City Park. Participants would now have the opportunity to use City Park as not only a play area but as a fitness destination, city officials said. The project will further promote and support the “Get Fit Natchitoches” campaign.
- Cloutierville Elementary/Middle School will construct a walking trail and enhance its existing ball fields for the entire community to use.
- LaSalle Recreation District 10 plans to construct a “fun zone” at a recreation park outside of Jena, allowing family residents a place to engage in friendly physical activity. “We realize that physical activity is often viewed as too stringent and overwhelming; hence the term ‘workout.’ So we want to diffuse this perception by installing an entry-level, subliminal fun zone of physical facilities,” said Betty Addison, board president. This area will include a splash pad, volleyball court, outdoor fitness center and horseshoe pits.
- Louisiana State University at Alexandria will use its funds to increase the length of its existing walking trail and to offer monthly community education classes that address exercise, gardening and healthy cooking.
- The Town of Jena will construct a quarter-mile nature trail on newly acquired land adjacent to Jena Town Park, providing fitness opportunities for local residents.
- Town of Olla will construct a community playground near the town’s walking trail. “We feel that the inclusion of playground equipment in the walking trail area will encourage physical activity for the entire family,” town officials said.
Grants target healthy eating
Manna House in Alexandria serves free, hot lunches to anyone who comes through its serving line. For some, it’s the only hot meal they may receive in a day. A continuing problem at Manna House was that it did not have adequate storage for donated produce, so providing fresh fruits, vegetables and meats on a daily basis was a challenge. “We would have to turn away produce if we couldn’t use it right away,” said Executive Director Leland McCullough.
But with a grant from The Rapides Foundation, Manna House will be able to purchase a walk-in cooler and an institutional triple sink that will allow volunteers to store, properly wash and ultimately serve fresh fruits and vegetables to their customers. “Y’all have no idea how much this was needed. What you’re doing is helping us to put good food in the hands of people who need it,” McCullough said.
Manna House was one of a handful of Diet and Physical Activity Community Grant recipients who will use their money to increase healthy eating opportunities in Central Louisiana. According to The Rapides Foundation’s 2010 Community Health Assessment, just one-third of Central Louisiana adults eat the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables a day. In many cases, residents cite availability as the primary reason why they don’t eat healthier foods.
The Foundation last year awarded several grants that funded community gardens and farmers markets in Central Louisiana. This spring, three of the 12 grants awarded under the Diet and Physical Activity Community Program were for projects that directly tackle the healthy eating issue. In addition to the Manna House, grants were awarded to the Avoyelles 4-H Foundation to build a covered structure for the existing farmers market in Mansura and to the Cane River National Heritage Area for three community gardens in Natchitoches and Natchez.
Congratulations to our new grantees
Look for these projects in Cenla communities:
- A.L. Hayward Sr. Community Development Corp. - playground equipment and recreation area for children, families and senior citizens in a public housing area in Bunkie.
- Avoyelles 4-H Foundation - covered structure for the community farmers market.
- Cane River National Heritage Area - three community gardens in Natchitoches and Natchez.
- City of Natchitoches - walking trail with fitness stations.
- Cloutierville Elementary/Middle School - a walking trail.
- LaSalle Recreation District 10 - recreation equipment, including a splash pad, volleyball court, outdoor fitness center and horseshoe pits, at a recreation park in LaSalle Parish.
- Louisiana State University at Alexandria - improvements to the existing walking trail and community education classes addressing healthy cooking, eating and exercise.
- Manna House in Alexandria - capital improvements to enable preparation of fresh, nutritious foods.
- Town of Jena - a quarter-mile nature trail.
- Town of Olla - a community turn-key playground.
- Town of Urania - playground equipment.
- Village of Hessmer - playground equipment and fitness opportunities.
Accepting proposals again
The Rapides Foundation is once again accepting proposals under its popular Diet and Physical Activity Community Program. This is the second call for proposals under the program. The deadline to apply is 5 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 15. We will award a limited number of grants up to $25,000 for projects that encourage and improve physical activity and healthy eating among residents in Central Louisiana. These grants are for nonprofits, government entities and faith-based community groups.
View the Request for Proposal.
For more information about how to apply, go to www.rapidesfoundation.org. For questions about this grant opportunity, please contact Program Officer Trayce Snow at 318.443.3394 or email@example.com.