JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Directors of Arkansas YMCA's are celebrating as Sam's Club has decided to donate $62, 000 to each of the five YMCA clubs in Arkansas.
Executive Director of the Jonesboro YMCA, Bob Williams, says this money will be used as part of a National YMCA program called, "Pioneering Healthy Communities".
Williams says this campaign is about more than getting people in the gym working out. "It's primarily focused on trying to improve the health and wellness of individuals within those towns, " Williams said. "Sadly, not only in America but in Arkansas, we are in the high percentile of chronic disease and also obesity and other things. In an effort to help communities be a little more aware and have more access to things that can help them live a healthy lifestyle."
Williams says this money is just the beginning. "This money is seed money to help us for partnerships and relationships with likeminded community leaders or businesses that would like to begin to do some specific things to help the health and wellness of people in this area."
When the phone call first came in, Williams said they were thrilled. "We are very excited," Williams commented. "You know, we had kind of heard earlier they might be interested and I know every organization gets inundated with requests for assistance. So, we are so thankful and real excited."
Williams says he hopes this money will help open up opportunities for local residents. "I really do hope, to be honest, the underserved in this community have easier access to the type things that will make them healthier. Be that, food in terms of community gardens, more sidewalks so that people can walk safer, and bicycle paths."
Williams says a number of these projects can already be seen or are being talked about. "I'm not mentioning things that aren't already in the works, but if we could expand on some of these things. Possibly find more activity times in the schools, because that is important. So, those would be some of the things that are down the road things. They're not overnight. But they will have an impact on individuals and slowly as those numbers increase they'll have an impact on the community."
Williams says they want this initiative to help change the lifestyles of local residents.
"It is more about just total lifestyle. Awareness of what you're eating, awareness of the activity your getting, methods to do that. Methods to eat healthier foods and make healthier choices and ways to become more active."
Williams says the first step is a training session in Hot Springs in two weeks.
Afterwards, the YMCA board will begin to work to identify potential people that would be interested in working with the YMCA.
For more information about the YMCA, you can call them at 932-8482.