Atchison, Kansas, December 17, 2014
Official status as a 501(c) (3) non-profit entity has been granted to Live Well. Live Atchison. (LWLA) by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The designation allows for federal tax exemption for the organization and makes donations to LWLA tax deductible.
“This represents a significant step in the organization’s evolvement,” said Chris Taylor, chairman of LWLA’s board of directors. “Approval of our 501(c) (3) application serves as recognition of the charitable, public-oriented nature of both our purpose and goal. It also enables us to seek support for our efforts through certain grants and other types of funding for which we otherwise would not be eligible.”
Helping Atchison County develop one of the healthiest lifestyle cultures found in Kansas through collaborative planning, community action, education, and policy advocacy is at the heart of LWLA’s mission. The organization was formed by volunteers throughout the county and spearheaded by Atchison Hospital in response to alarming statistics contained in the 2009 Kansas Health Rankings report.
In that report, published by the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps in collaboration with the Kansas Health Institute (KHI), Atchison County was ranked lowest for health behaviors among all 105 counties in the state. Behaviors included teen birth rates, cigarette smoking, smoking during pregnancy, binge drinking, seatbelt use, inactivity, and obesity. One of the first steps toward addressing these issues was the establishment of a leadership committee consisting of hospital staff, educators, government and law enforcement officials, representatives of local and area businesses, delegates from other health-related agencies, the Atchison Area Chamber of Commerce, churches, news media, and the Atchison County Extension Office.
Input from county residents was gathered through a series of youth and general public forums to help identify root causes of negative health behaviors and to set priorities for tackling main areas of concern. With this information in hand, four teams were established to concentrate on addressing specific needs. These teams are as follows:
- Lifelong Learning and Achievements-addresses high school and college graduation rates, teen pregnancy rates, workforce development, poverty reduction, and economic vitality.
- Community Support and Expectations-addresses alcohol and drug abuse, community values, and spiritual and mental health.
- Healthy Living-addresses smoking, obesity/eating disorders, nutrition, local health care access, physical health and activity, and an infrastructure for active living.
- Communications and Resources-address marketing, fundraising, grant research, agency clearinghouse and collaboration, corporate funding, and event sponsorships.
“One of our principal goals has been to increase awareness of our county’s health issues and the many resources our citizens can access to seek help in adopting healthier lifestyles,” said Aggie Asher, Atchison Hospital social services manager. Asher, who was instrumental in the creation of LWLA and serves on the organization’s board, added that responses to the initiative have thus far been “overwhelmingly positive and have enabled us to make progress on several fronts.”
Asher noted that in the 2014 county health rankings, Atchison County rose from last to 81st in the state. “This demonstrates that our efforts are having a positive impact and that there is widespread interest among residents throughout the county in creating healthier conditions and habits.”
To further cement LWLA’s formal structure, and in preparation for the 501(c) (3) application process, the organization’s board was formed this past year. In addition to Taylor and Asher, other board members include Goldie Boldridge-Brown, John Jacobson, Steve Pickman, Jacque Pregont, Lori Scholz, Kate Werring and Steve Wiseman.
Last summer, LWLA’s communication and resource team in collaboration with Atchison Hospital developed and launched the organization’s website, https://livewellatchison.org. The site serves as a useful resource for explaining LWLA’s goals and accomplishments, while also providing information and contacts for other health-oriented services, programs, and events. In addition, the team has established LWLA’s presence in social media via a Facebook page, as well as a Twitter feed.
Over the last two years, LWLA, the Atchison YMCA, and Atchison Hospital co-sponsored the “Trot to the Top” 5k and 10k fun run and walk. Other activities that have either been kicked off or are in the planning stage include a Healthy Snacks for Children program; health-related educational forums; the development of LWLA-approved healthy menu choices for local dining establishments; community leader and business forums; a character development program and training seminars for local schools; smoking cessation programs; creation of a new community garden; a health fair; and the production and distribution of materials promoting LWLA’s projects and objectives.