Andree Sizemore, Angie Brownson, and Kim Rencher of the Douglas ESD

Andree Sizemore, left, Angie Brownson, center, and Kim Rencher of the Douglas Education Service District, go for a quick walk with their Blue Zones T-shirts after the ESD was name a Blue Zones Project Approved worksite for their commitment to the well-being of their employees and the community.

Douglas Education Service District has been named the first Blue Zones Project Approved worksite in the Umpqua Valley, an honor that recognizes the ESD’s commitment to the well-being of their employees and the community as a whole.

To be approved for the honor, the Douglas ESD had to implement proven best practices focus on eating healthier foods, exercising more, connecting socially and finding purpose.

The ESD, which has 140 employees in Douglas County and 70 more in Jackson County, was recognized as an approved site, at a ceremony Friday afternoon at the Seven Feathers Convention Center in Canyonville, during the ESD’s in-service day.

“Our staff has worked diligently over the past several years to integrate healthful practices into our workplace culture,” said ESD Superintendent Michael Lasher. and I am proud of their progress. We look forward to making additional strides toward well-being.”

John Dimof, organization lead for Blue Zones Project-Umpqua, said one of the major topics that is emerging in the education field is the importance of self care and Blue Zones works to directly impact people’s well being.

“I think it’s important that we look at education and the importance of well being on the impacts of organizations that are there to benefit others,” Dimof said.

Cynthia Hurkes, an early learning facilitator for the ESD in Roseburg, said it was a pretty neat deal to get designated as a Blue Zones Approved worksite, especially since ESD decided it wanted to be a part of it.

“ESD is choosing to support it, and it’s exciting to be the first organization,” Hurkes said. “I’m glad to be a part of an organization like Blue Zones, that has a healthy perspective for its employees.”

Douglas ESD has had an extensive and early investment in the improvement of the well-being of the community through Blue Zones Project.

Former ESD Assistant Superintendent Pat Sublette spearheaded the original application to become a Blue Zones Project Demonstration Community on behalf of local leaders.

Analicia Nicholson, the current assistant superintendent for the ESD, said the organization has had walking challenges and and other incentive programs to get the employees involved, and people have gotten excited enough that they’re getting in the habit of taking more walks.

“We’ve spent the last two years focusing on wellness, so to be the first worksite to be approved by the Blue Zones is really a recognition of their hard work and the commitments they’ve made to themselves and to the agency,” Nicholson said.

“I think the employees are very excited to be integrating all of the Blue Zones ideals into the workplace and also into their personal lives,” Lasher said.

Dimof said there are several other local businesses that are getting close to being Blue Zone approved worksites and some of those could be named in the near future.

For information on becoming a Blue Zones Project approved organization, call John Dimof at 541-802-9110, or email

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Dan Bain is the health reporter for The News-Review. He previously worked at KPIC and 541 Radio.

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