Chester Housing Authority

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Chester City Blog: Chester Housing Authority's brand of healthy transformation

 Residents Tara Fontaine and Deborah Montgomery have been involved with the CHA health project from the very beginning. When the project first got started in 2011, the women 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. "Now we see a lot of new people every time we do an event. It's amazing." The health project took a dramatic turn for the better in January 2013 when Ulysses "Butch" Slaughter took over as project coordinator. "Butch had all kinds of ideas," said Montgomery. "He didn't just talk about doing new things, he actually did them. "With the continued dedication of Fontaine, Montgomery and several other dedicated Residents, Slaughter was able to create a project that would include youth, senior Residents, college interns and local businesses."We have a lot of very talented and smart Residents," said Slaughter. "All we needed was a solid plan and some consistency. When people saw that we were committed to being healthy, they joined us.\"By October 2013, more than 400 CHA residents had come to one of the community centers to address their health needs. Residents participated in Zumba, kickboxing, yoga and group walks. A large number of CHA residents took part in a health survey conducted by Dr. April Young. "We talked with a lot of people over the course of three days," said Young. "CHA Residents are concerned about their health and talked about what's important to them."In addition to participating in health surveys and workout sessions, many Residents took advantage of free health screenings provided by Dr. Joyce Rasin from Widener University. Not only did Rasin help monitor blood pressure, she also helped participants keep track of their weight and body mass index. "Having her come out really made a difference in how serious people looked at their health," said Montgomery.The new and improved health initiative included something for all CHA Residents. A youth sports seminar was developed to teach boys and girls soccer and basketball skills. Senior Residents made weekly trips to the Bennett Community Garden to pick fresh fruits and vegetables. A small group of young men were hired to support Swarthmore College students managing the garden's growth over the summer. And a new catering company was developed by Fontaine and Montgomery. "Like everything else, we call it ANUME," said Fontaine. "That's what our work is all about. We want people to join us and create ways of living for themselves, for their families and for their communities. I see bigger things happening in 2014. This is going to be great."