Recognizing the tremendous burden that the COVID pandemic has placed on front line workers in the behavioral health arena, Olympic Peninsula Healthy Community Coalition (OPHCC) reached out to lift their spirits. OPHCC’s Executive Director Leslee Francis dreamed up the idea of “kindness jars” filled with inspirational quotes and heartfelt notes of appreciation provided by notable community dignitaries.
Leslee then worked to identify every non-profit provider of behavioral health services in Clallam County. They span 16 agencies…342 employees…each receiving a festive glass jar filled with 31 different messages of thanks and support, one for each day of the month. She also included one of 342 gift cards purchased from local businesses across the county from Sequim to Neah Bay. OPHCC received numerous thank you notes from surprised, delighted, overwhelmed and appreciative people who never expected to be acknowledged in such a heartfelt and meaningful way.
Especially during this pandemic, the Olympic Peninsula Healthy Community Coalition continues its work to improve the health of our community, moving beyond the more traditional definitions of physical health to encompass the broader needs of our community’s for connection and emotional wellness during this difficult time.
When 2020 began, the Olympic Peninsula Healthy Community Coalition (OPHCC) was working full-steam ahead on parallel tracks: actively building and organizing a broad coalition of community partners to focus on reducing chronic illness through healthy lifestyle choices, building an organization capable of assisting others with programmatic and policy change in support of improved health, and building contractual relationships with health care providers to support their important efforts to reduce the terrible impacts of chronic illness on local residents.
The cumulative impact of these efforts include the successful launch and implementation of the Ready-Set-Go 5210 program throughout our community which promotes the four most impactful evidence-based strategies we can all adopt to improve our health: 5 or more servings of fruit and veggies each day, 2 hours of less of recreational screen time, 1 hour of physical activity and 0 sugar-added beverages.
OPHCC’s Executive Director Leslee Francis supports this work by doing a little bit of everything ranging from staffing the "smoothie bike" activity at school events, to organizing and implementing regular meetings of the 50+ member OPHCC, to meeting with the CEOs of local hospitals and health clinics to develop programming specific to their staff and their needs, to reporting on contractual obligations to the Olympic Community of Health as the OPHCC supports the Medicare transformation project.
Suddenly COVID and the Need for an Expanded Resource Line
OPHCC and Leslee have pivoted priorities on a dime in order to help meet the need created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As Clallam County began planning its response to this pandemic it became apparent that many residents would soon find themselves in need of connection to assistance: Maybe to inquire about getting food from a local food bank for the first time; maybe looking for child care when asked to work extra shifts at the hospital; maybe looking for help with new feelings of anxiety, or in search of help due to isolation.
While the “211 Help Line” has historically served as the go-to resource for getting answers to these questions, it was apparent this existing resource would not be enough to meet the new need. When County Commissioner Mark Ozias wondered how to bolster this resource he thought of Leslee Francis. She was the one person who had already built OPHCC’s vast network of partners and who had the tenacity to get big things done quickly.
When Mark called Leslee to ask for help, without hesitation she said “yes.” When presented with an unexpected, unknown and complex challenge most of us would hesitate. We would say maybe. We would ask for time to think it over. We would think of the barriers. Leslee said “yes” and got to work. The end result? A comprehensive, real-time-updated, locally-staffed improvement to Clallam County’ traditional 211 service and a conversation with other 211 partners about making this COVID-driven project permanent given its success.
As COVID-19 began reaching the North Olympic Peninsula, face mask supplies became scarce. Olympic Peninsula Healthy Community (OPHCC) partners answered the call from the County Public Health Officer to supply homemade face masks.
OPHCC Co-founder Monica Dixon and OPHCC Partner Jim Stoffer jumped into action and created the Facebook group Sequim Face Masks Challenge. Practically overnight, they activated an army of people to sew masks, along with coordinators, suppliers and drivers, almost exclusively due to prior relationships established through partnerships in OPHCC. They worked for months to provide thousands of cloth face masks and dozens of cloth hospital gowns to Clallam County Emergency Management for distribution throughout the county.
Our model was so effective that representatives from larger urban areas in Seattle, Portland and San Francisco contacted us to learn more about how we were able to mobilize a rural county so rapidly and how prior relationship-building became so critical during this emergency.
Molina Healthcare of Washington presented nine individuals, including OPHCC president, Dr. Monica Dixon, with its prestigious Community Champions Award at the 10th annual reception honoring outstanding community leaders and advocates for the underserved throughout Washington state.
“At Molina Healthcare, it is our privilege and responsibility to recognize and reward the unsung heroes who tirelessly work to improve the health of our communities every day,” said Peter Adler, president of Molina Healthcare of Washington. “Each recipient sets an example to others in their respective communities that giving back – no matter how, why, where or to whom – is noble and worthy of celebration. We owe those daily heroes in our communities a debt of gratitude.”
Read the entire announcement here!
Olympic Peninsula Healthy Community Coalition President, Monica Dixon and Clallam County Commissioner Mark Ozias chat with KONP radio host Todd Ortloff about the 2018 Healthy Leader 5210 Challenge in which twelve community leaders (including Mark) adopt the four 5-2-1-0 DAILY healthy habits for the entire month of July.
5 – Eat 5 servings of fruit and vegetables
2 – Reduce recreational screen time to 2 hours or less
1 – Get at least 1 hour of physical activity
0 – Drink 0 sugar sweetened beverages
Listen to the podcast here!
On August 16th, 2017, OPHCC sponsored a leadership forum for Olympic Peninsula leaders to:
Cooking with kids? The idea might sound uncomfortable, overwhelming, or even dangerous. But if we want our kids to love nutritious food, understand the importance of a home cooked meal, and eventually be able to shop for and prepare their own healthy meals, we need to empower them to find confidence in the kitchen from an early age.
Where to start? It’s always a good idea to try new routines a few different ways to find what works best for you. Read more at Letsgo.org for tips on how to start cooking with kids!
Imagine bringing together the lonely, the isolated, the hungry, or just the “I don’t feel like cooking today” in order to enjoy a meal together celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday. That’s exactly the vision that began last year as OPHCC partners began to talk about putting together the first ever Thanksgiving Community dinner.
Recognizing that the beautiful Sequim Boys and Girls Club sat empty over the holiday, and that only a few blocks down the street, the Sequim Food Bank filled hundreds of holiday meal boxes to hand out to those needing a lift, the idea began to germinate of pulling together all in our wonderful community in order to celebrate our gratitude, to enjoy good food and to laugh and connect to one another. Once the word was out, the generosity from our incredible community poured forth.
Take our October 2016 "Ready, Set, Go 5-2-1-0!" Challenge for great prizes and even better health for you and your family! Download the Challenge form here, then work on eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, getting 2 hours or less of recreational screen time, 1 hour of physical activity and drinking 0 sugar-sweetened beverages every day this month.
Bring your completed Challenge sheets to the new Sequim YMCA desk either Saturday, October 29th, or join us for the Grand Opening Sunday, October 30th from noon to 3 PM, and receive your FREE T-shirt just for participating!
In addition, you'll be entered into drawings for a free year-long family membership, swimming lessons, free class certificates, new bikes and other great prizes!
All ages are welcome to participate, and you can jump into the Challenge at any time!
Okay, Sequim and the Dungeness Valley, it's time to get REAL. It's time to have fun. It's time to tell a new story for our community, one which revels in how healthy, energetic, active, fun, engaged and committed we are.
I LOVE living here, and look to those mountains every single day and count my blessings that I've settled in such an incredible wonderland. Hike, ski, bike, walk, run, kayak, swim (ok, we'll get SARC back at it soon!), garden, yoga, and sometimes all in the same day. A day in paradise is one in which my husband and I go snowshoeing on Hurricane Ridge and come home to mow the lawn. Share THAT story with your friends!
ABOUT DR. M
Dr. Monica Dixon, our resident Blogger, has a 30 year history of work in the worlds of nutrition, physical activity, and helping to make communities healthier.
Though health information abounds on the internet, much of it is ill-founded and not based in the good science that tells us what really works and what doesn't.
Dr. M is a registered dietitian, culinary nutritionist, and a health psychologist.