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By: Cheryl Thurston
Bladen County Healhty Collaborative
The Healthy Bladen Collaborative held its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday to discuss the progress that has been made thus far in their efforts to make all of Bladen County healthier, and to announce the schedule of events that have been planned to coincide with the holiday season. The Collaborative has three internal groups working on initiatives for improvement in the areas of Physical Health, Health Education, and Public Awareness.Marianne Valentiner, the new Health and Human Services Agency Director, gave a report on the recent Lunch & Learn activity that promoted Breast Cancer Awareness, the Crazy Color Fun Run that raised funds for the United Way (amount of money raised will be published as soon as the figures come in), the Think Pink Flu Drive Thru, was successful in vaccinating 81 local children, and the ODHDSP (Obesity, Diabetes, Heart Disease, Stroke Prevention Grant update came in on October 23rd.Carol Strickland, the new Young Families Connect Coordinator, announced a Sustainability meeting for November 4th with Jasmine Moore, Grant Coordinator, in the hope that Bladen County will receive a grant for the Healthy Bladen Initiative.

Kayla Brianne offered the Year 2 report for the NC Healthy Start program. There were 93 participants for Year 2, and 16 of those came through the school system.

Andrea Singletary, the Care Coordinator for Children, who works with special needs children, reported that there is an ongoing initiative to focus on childhood asthma and to educate caregivers about the need for flu shots.

Kelsey Edwards, Bladen County Library Director, announced that the Elizabethtown Police Department will be involved in a Storytime for Children on November 5th at 3:30pm at the library in Elizabethtown, and there will be an Open House at the Clarkton Library, sponsored by the Red Hat Society, onNovember 10th from 6:00-8:00pm.

Lisa Clark, Community Outreach Coordinator for the Lower Cape Fear Hospice and Life Care Center, announced the 10th Annual Festival of Trees, which will feature a Holiday Luncheon with author of Christmas Jars, Jason T. Wright, on November 16th from 11:30am – 1:00pm. Tickets are $35.00 per person or $250.00 for a table for 8. There will be  an edible gift confection class called Delightfully Made with Chef Sarah Gore, which will be making truffles for the holidays. A community choir will present Christmas through Song, a magical evening full of classical songs to entertain the whole family, on November 18thfrom 7:00-9:00pm. Tickets for the event are $10.00 each, Chili and Salad Bar will be served. On November 19th, from 6:00-8:00pm, there will be an Ugliest Sweater event. Tickets are $25.00 per person and will feature live music and appetizers. For those who would like to have Breakfast with Santa, there will be 2 opportunities on November 21st. for children younger that 12, tickets will be $5.00 and for adults $7.00. Seating times are 8:30am and 9:45. There are limited seats available and they sell out quickly. All of the events listed above will be held at at Northwood Church, located at 2672 James B. White Highway, Whiteville, NC., and require pre-purchase. All proceeds will benefit the Lower Cape Fear Hospice. For more information about these events contact Debra Walters at 910 445-3071, or debrajeanwalters@gmail.com.

John Goodman, of the Bladen Ministerial Association, reported that Rev. Chris Denny, of the Elizabethtown Presbyterian Church is now the Director of Bladen Crisis Assistance, and gave an update on the Southeastern Carolina Crossroads organization. According to Kincy Barrow, 13 men are currently in the program and 4 of the program’s graduates have stayed to become counselors. Charles Ray Peterson announced that there will be a fund-raiser on November 21st, at the Historical Building in Bladenboro, to benefit Southeastern Carolina Crossroads.

Stacie Kinlaw, of NC Cooperative Extension, reported that the recent Ag ‘Em Up Days, the two day Agricultural Field Day Adventure for Bladen County 3rd graders, was a huge success, and announced that there will be a Farm City Banquet on November 24th at 6:30pm. The National 4-H Week this year accomplished many goals and offered goodie bags to residents at the nursing home. 4-H will be sponsoring a Christmas Toy Drive from November 1st through December 4th. All participants are asked to provide unwrapped, non-violent toys or gifts for kids ages 1-18. Donations can be dropped off at the 4-H office in the Powell Melvin Agricultural Building at 450 Smith Circle in Elizabethtown. For more information contact Stacie Kinlaw at 910 862-4591 or stacie_kinlaw@ncsu.edu.

Patti Miller, with the Bladen County Parks and Recreation Department, announced that Bladen County will be represented by 4 teams in Flag Football, 6 teams in Tackle Football, and the cheerleaders will wear pink for Breast Cancer Awareness. Also, Parks and Rec will be taking registrations for basketball soon.

Charles Ray Peterson mentioned that there are still spaces for vendors at the Beastfest scheduled for October 31st in Bladenboro. New Light Church will provide Trunk or Treat for ages Birth through Resurrection. Last years festival saw 1700 participants. There will be 4 bands for live music and fun for the whole family.

Greg Martin, County Manager, reported that the County Commissioners will sponsor a Steering Committee for Health for a community driven initiative and wants active participation from the community. A community meeting will be held to gather feedback and the Steering Committee will establish 4 focus areas of concern.

Ernest Watts announced that HUD fund recipients will soon observe a Smoke-Free Policy, which will be phased in over 18 months, and reminded everyone that The Great American Smoke Out will be on November 19th this year. Everyone is encouraged to give up all uses of tobacco, including vapors and e-cigs.

Dr. Hoskins of the Healthy Places NC initiative will determine if Bladen County gets a grant from Healthy Places NC to fund efforts of the Collaborative.

The Healthy Bladen Collaborative is working on an app for smartphones which will map all walking and biking trails in the county and place new signage on all trails. A website and a community calendar are being developed to inform residents of upcoming events.

Lisa Byrd with the Bladen County Hospital is working to assist the collaborative with funding for the signage. The next meeting of the collaborative will be onNovember 17th and the public is encouraged to attend.

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