Chester Housing Authority Hopes to Renew Successful Health and Fitness Program

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Kirk Dorn 215-735-6760, 215-704-3653

Chester Housing Authority Hopes to Renew Successful Health and Fitness Program

Agency is looking for sponsors to sustain “Anume,” a wellness program available for residents

(Chester, PA-March 31, 2014)–Now that spring has finally sprung the Chester Housing Authority is once again encouraging residents to think more about their health and fitness. CHA executive director Steven A. Fischer wants to bring back the agency’s highly successful Anume (A New Me) program, has begun a search for businesses that will support the program and has already seen two local businesses step up.

Funding for the two-year pilot program ran out last September but not before the program showed its value in successfully helping people change their fitness habits. More than 400 CHA residents visited community centers to address their health needs. Residents participated in Zumba, kickboxing, yoga and group walks. A large number of residents took part in a health survey conducted by April Young, Ph.D.

“We talked with a lot of people over the course of three days,” said Dr. Young. “CHA residents are concerned about their health and talked about what’s important to them.”

CHA was the only housing authority in the nation to receive a federal grant to implement the pilot health and fitness program. It costs about $100,000 per year to operate the program and already Keystone First and Susquehanna Bank have donated a combined $25,000 to get the spring segment started. Because so many residents bought in and changed their fitness habits during the two-year pilot, Director Fischer does not want to let a great program slip away.

“I am a firm believer that if people pay closer attention to their personal health they’ll wind up feeling better about themselves and they will approach all the other challenges in their lives with a clearer thought process,” Fischer said. “The families we deal with have financial, social and educational challenges. If you’re keeping your weight down a little more and eating better it gives you a mental advantage over everything else that’s going on in your life.”

Residents Tara Fontaine and Deborah Montgomery have been involved with the CHA health project from the very beginning. They were part of a group that spent time developing the Bennett Community Garden, exercising in small groups and hosting healthy food workshops.

“When we first got started, only a few people would come out to see what we were doing,” said Fontaine. “But later, we started seeing a lot of new people every time we did an event. It was amazing.”

“We have a lot of very talented and smart residents,” Montgomery said. “All we needed was a solid plan and some consistency. When people saw that we were committed to being healthy, they joined us.”

Some may wonder why a housing authority is spending money on residents’ health rather than on housing. Director Fischer says CHA made a small investment that is paying dividends in other ways.

“I think people should be glad to hear that a housing organization thought a little outside the box and figured out a way of helping people perhaps move out of public housing sooner than they otherwise might,” he said. “If you talk to those individuals you’ll hear some of them say things like, ‘I’m accomplishing more in a lot of areas of my life because I’m paying better attention to my body and my health.’”

As for potential funding for the program CHA has proposals into foundations, private businesses, and health insurance companies. Fischer is hoping for more benefactors to join Keystone First and Susquehanna Bank and help CHA residents continue what they have stated, living healthier, more productive lives.

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The Chester Housing Authority, an innovator and entrepreneurial leader among the nation’s medium size housing agencies, is the city of Chester’s largest affordable housing provider. It administers and manages approximately 2,400 units, about 20% of the city’s rental homes.

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