We all know what Southwest Louisiana has been through over the last few months. As if a pandemic and its consequences haven’t been hard enough, Southwest Louisiana has been punched again and again by storms, including Hurricanes Laura and Delta. When you have to reach into the Greek alphabet to start naming storms, you know it’s been a bad season.
However, as the Lake Charles area builds back, the people there have been and are planning on how they can build back better. Communities are getting the message that the way to help people be healthy is to start at the beginning: by creating environments that are good for people, where they can live, work and play without even having to think about their health - whether it’s breathing smoke-free air or having a nearby park to walk in. When we make the healthy choice, the default choice, it’s much easier (and much cheaper in the long run too) to fight chronic disease, otherwise known as those tobacco- and obesity-induced diseases that kill us, such as heart disease, cancer and even COVID-19, where tobacco and obesity contribute to its ravages too.
So let’s take a look at what LHCC mini-grants have been helping fund around Lake Charles to help people be healthier:
- Tuten Park has been on a journey to become the city’s premier nature park. LHCC helped the Southwest Louisiana Master Naturalist and community volunteers build safe green spaces for physical activity by upgrading the park’s walking trails and creating what is called a “nature scavenger hunt” – complete with educational signage and refurbished raised garden beds so people can spot and learn about the benefits of native plants while they exercise.
- In collaboration with the City of Lake Charles, the Southwest Louisiana Center for Health Services (SWLAHC) and the Greater Lake Charles Rotary Club added benches to the First Avenue Walking Trail. With help from LHCC, the trail was transformed from an old abandoned railroad track in a neglected community to a safe, inviting community corridor that encourages walking and biking, while also connecting residents to key destinations such as schools, churches, daycare centers and more.
- The busy and wonderful folks at SWLAHC have added physical activity signs to a walking trail in an underserved area, that at the same time helped alleviate congestion in area parks.
- And, finally, and hopefully all of you in the area have seen the bottle-filling stations along Lake Charles’ Lakefront Promenade. It was a project LHCC did in conjunction with the City of Lake Charles, levering government funding between two entities, to provide a greater good that the city’s citizens wanted, and all can use.
Here’s to health, y’all!