Over the past three years, great strides have been made in the Umpqua Valley toward becoming a place where people can live longer better through Blue Zones Project — Umpqua. As excitement grows, and more people become aware of and want to participate in this movement, it is only natural that the Blue Zones Project – Umpqua team grows with it.

The team has welcomed three United Communities AmeriCorps members who will be serving through July 2021, in addition to the three core team members.

Nico Padgett — Health Educator

Favorite Power 9: Plant-Slant

Nico assists staff in delivering health education and wellness programs for the community to improve attitudes and behaviors related to healthy lifestyles. Nico helps to plan and lead programs, including cooking demonstrations, purpose workshops, health education seminars, well-being small groups, community volunteer events, health fairs and tabling events in a variety of community locations.

Nico also recruits and trains volunteers to assist in the implementation of these programs throughout community.

Zenya Ledermann — Community Garden Coordinator

Favorite Power 9: Power of Purpose

Zenya is a part of a new community initiative from the Blue Zones Project Food Policy Committee to root existing and budding community gardens by providing consistent, needed support. Under UC-VEG, Zenya supports three community gardens, including the West Side Community Garden, Umpqua Dairy Garden and Gateway Garden in Roseburg.

Additionally, Zenya is planting the seeds for garden-based educational activities for populations served by three additional community partners, including Chadwick Clubhouse and Peace at Home, and monthly public workshops on a monthly rotation.

Zenya also cultivates interest and participation in the community garden programs through public relations, grassroots marketing and informational presentations and developing community partners to secure donations for garden supplies.

Mimi Ryan — School Garden Coordinator

Favorite Power 9:

Mimi is also part of a Blue Zones Project Food Policy Committee initiative in partnership with Umpqua Valley Farm to School. She recruits and trains designated school garden champions on their roles and responsibilities description for each school, tailored to their garden’s aim.

She also further refines the system for recruitment, training, coordination and tracking of volunteers. Mimi refines volunteer roles and responsibilities description, tailored to each school while actively recruiting community volunteers to support weekly garden lessons, cafeteria tastings, field trips and work bees. Finally, Mimi coordinates with the school to recognize and celebrate volunteers’ contributions.

Juliete Palenshus — Community Engagement Director

“As much as I’m fueled by the meaningful impact of this project, the variability, pace, and mass of work requires precision in organization, efficiency, constant prioritization, and flexibility, which I also enjoy. I’ve had to push myself beyond any real and perceived barriers over the last three years, which has been as rewarding and exciting as it has been challenging. I’m simultaneously proud and humbled by what we’ve been able to accomplish and honored to continue to do this work for our community.

“Two things stand out to me. The first is that H.E.D.I. (Health, equity, diversity, and inclusion) emerged in our Phase II work as an even higher priority. We are reevaluating every aspect and layer of our work and structure with this lens, while investing in the massive resources available to educate ourselves and share tools with our organizational partners. The second is that it’s been incredibly inspiring to oversee our United Communities AmeriCorps members. They’ve brought a refreshing creativity and perspective to their various roles while expanding the impact of the project and it’s been a pleasure working with them.”

Jess Hand — Executive Director

“It’s honestly so hard to pick a favorite moment from the last three years. There are both small and big moments that were truly memorable. I would have to say that going through the community certification process back in early November was my favorite. Over 20 meetings with committees, approved organizations, and city leaders reflecting on how much our community’s culture has changed as a result of the Blue Zones Project. I felt so proud of our community and our team for being willing to lean in and try new things that made a big impact!

“A big part of Blue Zones Project is the relationships. Working with so many people from different walks of life and across different sectors of our community has been so rewarding for me. I’m looking forward to building on those partnerships and creating brand new ones as well.”

John Dimof — Strategic Partnership Director

“We’re living in a time where we’re clearly seeing the consequences of our choices around health. Sometimes these are experienced acutely, but often they go on unperceived, impacting ourselves and our whole community silently over time. Endeavoring to address these largely preventable chronic conditions has been one of my goals, and seeing people progress for the better encompasses my favorite moments.

“More specifically, seeing 1200 people pack Jacoby Auditorium at UC to see a lecture by Dr. Michael Greger focused on lifestyle medicine is a huge accomplishment. Our community stood-out in all of Oregon by hosting such a successful event.

“Additionally, I hope to see more organizations experience the productivity and financial benefits of adopting employee well-being strategies that are integrated into the very culture of their business models.”

Along with an army of volunteers, this team is working to make the Umpqua Valley an even better place to live, work, learn, play, and pray. You’re invited to be a part of Blue Zones Project — Umpqua and to live longer better! Like and follow Blue Zones Project-Umpqua on Facebook and Instagram (bzpumpqua) or email bzpumpqua@gmail.com to learn more, get on the list to receive monthly email bulletins, or to volunteer.

About Blue Zones Project

Blue Zones Project® is a community-led well-being improvement initiative designed to make healthy choices easier through permanent changes to a city’s environment, policy, and social networks. Established in 2010, Blue Zones Project is based on research by Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow and New York Times best-selling author who identified five cultures of the world — or blue zones — with the highest concentration of people living to 100 years or older.

Blue Zones Project incorporates Buettner’s findings and works with cities to implement policies and programs that will move a community toward optimal health and well-being.

Currently, 50 communities across North America have joined Blue Zones Project, impacting more than 3.4 million citizens. The population health solution includes two Health Districts in California; 15 cities in Iowa; Albert Lea, Minnesota; the city of Fort Worth, Texas; Corry, Pennsylvania; Airdrie, Alberta; Brevard, North Carolina; and communities in Southwest Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Wisconsin.

Blue Zones Project is a partnership between Blue Zones, LLC, and Sharecare, Inc. For more information, visit bluezonesproject.com.

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