Immigrant advocacy group to host Health and Wellness Day July 16 – Citizen Times

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MARSHALL – Who said healthy activities can’t be fun? 
Local immigrant outreach organization La Esperanza will host a Health, Wellness and Fun Day from noon-4 p.m. Julyat the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit in Marshall. 
For children, there will be a bouncy house and slide, popcorn, cotton candy, hot dogs and snow cones for attendees.
The event will also offer health services and info, such as diabetes education, blood pressure checks and mammogram information. COVID boosters and free home-test kits will also be available at the event, which will be co-hosted by Madison County Sheriff’s Office, the county health department, Mars Hill Baptist Church and Kepro.
Holly Norton is a community health worker with Kepro, a clinical health care organization that partners with government sponsored health care programs
“As community health workers for Madison County, our hope is to bring the community resources, health information and services directly to the people where they’re at and meeting specific needs that have been expressed within the community,” Norton said. “Kepro is happy to collaborate with the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, Madison County Health Department, Mars Hill Baptist Church and La Esperanza and The Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit to bring fun, as well as the needed services and information.”
In its 2021 Community Health Needs Assessment released this month, the county health department identified obesity/pre-diabetes as one of its top priorities, along with substance use and mental health. 
According to Jodi Brazil, the Madison Community Health Consortium’s coordinator, 80% of Madison County key informants selected pre-diabetes/diabetes as a major problem in the community. 
Roughly 400 people were surveyed, Brazil said. 
According to La Esperanza’s founder and director, Rebecca Sharp, a host of other organizations will be on hand to assist residents with health questions.
“We’re getting people from Friends of Madison County Animals, from Providence Imaging for mammography stuff, as well as people from the health department talking about colorectal screening,” Sharp said. “The Hot Springs Health Program will be heading the diabetes awareness discussions.”
Tommy Justus from Mars Hill Baptist Church will be grilling hot dogs, and representatives from Pisgah Legal Services, Community Housing Coalition and the Madison County Center – North Carolina Cooperative Extension will be in attendance. 
According to Sharp, La Esperanza recently received a $45,000 grant from WNC Bridge Foundation, a community-based charitable organization that works to provide funds to support and assist in meeting the many health challenges that face the people of WNC, according to its website.
“We’re still working off grants we got from COVID, too, but we got a grant we received from the WNC Bridge Foundation for $45,000 for three years,” Sharp said. “It’s for focusing on health and wellness, which, really, just about everything we do is health and wellness.” 
The grant will help to cover salaries for Sharp and Paula White, La Esperanza’s co-director, as well as help support programs for the organization, such as its family field trips, fitness dance classes, meditation sessions and its summer camp. 
“I want to focus more on doing some nutrition, as well as mindfulness/meditation classes with the women (sometimes referred to as Las Mujeres),” said Sharp, who studied nutrition in college and serves as a translator at local health clinics. 
“I have a lot of women, who when I interpret at clinics, they’ll be diagnosed with high blood pressure, or diabetes, or high cholesterol, and told to change their diet, and that’s the end of the conversation. How do you do that? So, I want to do some culturally competent, culturally sensitive diet. I had this one guy say, ‘Tell me, how many tortillas can I eat?’ He looks at me and he says, ‘Rebecca, can you just write out what I need to eat every day?’ So, I’d like to do more on that because that’s my area. I grew up with a mom who’s a nurse and is really into health and nutrition. It’s an area I know a lot about, and I really enjoy.” 
Sharp said the organization also hopes to start English language classes in August. 
According to the director, the organization is beginning to pick up momentum again after experiencing a slight lull during COVID. 
“We’re definitely gaining momentum,” Sharp said. “We’re doing a couple field trips a week. We went up to Paint Creek (in late June). We’re trying to just get them out. The women, I think, are feeling more and more like they’ve gotten known in the community. Mars Hill University, whether it’s the Bonners Scholar Program or other programs call me and ask if La Esperanza has any women to cater an event. Rotary has called and asked the same. So, we have a lot of groups now that ask the women to cater.”
La Esperanza issued more than $20,000 to families in need during the pandemic, Sharp said. 
“Sometimes funds are raised for the operating funds of La Esperanza, and sometimes it’s raised for community aid,” Sharp said. “We gave away more than $20,000 to undocumented families. Part of that, $7,000 was from WNC Bridge Foundation, and $13,000 was from personal donations.” 
Sharp said she hopes to keep that momentum rolling with the July 16 event.
“With the Latina community, it’s a family. The whole family comes,” Sharp said. “Anyone who wants to come is invited. I call it La Esperanza Immigrant Outreach because the name sounds more inclusive.” 
The Health, Wellness and Fun Day will take place July 16 at The Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit, located at 433 Bone Camp Road in Marshall. 

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