Health is task force mission
by Rory Doyle
Sep 21, 2012 | 2631 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In March of 2011 several community members got together to think of ways to make Cleveland a healthier and more active population.

Their ideas shaped into the Mayor's Task Force for a Healthier Community, a group of volunteers that meets every couple weeks to brainstorm ideas to keep Cleveland moving.

Dr. John Alvarez, associate professor in Delta State University's health, physical education and recreation department, has been one of the leaders in the group.

"The task force came along when we started thinking of ways to make Cleveland a healthier place to live," said Alvarez. "We want people, especially kids, to be active every day in every way."

Alvarez said a few group members were inspired by visits to several schools in Rogers, Ark., operating under the PE4life program; an organization that promotes educating schools and their community partners about the importance of physical activity.

"We heard about the model PE4life schools in Arkansas and we drove over to see them," said Alvarez. "Some of the things they were doing were just fantastic. With the help of the community they had developed a whole building for activities that were regularly scheduled for anyone in the community to attend.

"So we thought, why can't we do that in Cleveland?"

In response, the group approached the mayor and the task force began.

"The idea has been outstanding from the get-go," said Cleveland Mayor Billy Nowell. "They've been working hard on the movement for a couple years now, and the response has been very well received."

Nowell said battling Mississippi's health issues sparked by physical inactivity is of upmost significance.

"Without a doubt this task force faces these issues head on," said Nowell. "The numbers we've had at previous events indicate how important the group is."

The mayor has been present at past events, which have included basketball tournaments and Saturdays in the Park (youth fun days in city parks).

Community members, Cleveland School District, DSU, Cleveland-Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce, Cleveland Park Commission and city officials have all played active roles in supporting the group, which is presently funded by donations and fundraising.

Task force board member and Cleveland School District Assistant Superintendent Brenda Ellis has also been pleased with the local support.

"Through the task force we've been able to organize events where all genders, ages and races come together in a great family environment," said Ellis. "For the city of Cleveland to accomplish this — that's pretty special."

The group's next major event will be Softball Saturday on Nov. 3.

The task force will organize a round robin tournament featuring teams comprised of local city groups — the fire department, police department, city officials, DSU, park commission and others will battle it out on the softball field.

Board member and Department Chair of HPER at DSU Timothy Colbert is looking forward to the gathering.

"I think Softball Saturday will help us establish our identity (task force) in the community," said Colbert. "It will be another way for our community to have fun and be active."

While the November tournament will not be recruiting teams, the public is encouraged to attend and support local representatives.

"We want everyone to come out and have a blast," said Colbert. "Come and watch our community leaders be an example of staying active.

"These events are about fitness and physical activity at all levels, for both kids and adults — and utilizing the resources available to us."

Colbert said the tournament will also feature activities and a play area for youth, as well as concessions. Those not competing are still encouraged to attend.

"We want to keep advancing and keep developing a culture of wellness in the Delta," said Alvarez. "The development of the mayor's task force is about moving forward."

For more information on volunteering with the Mayor's Task Force for a Healthier Community, contact Dr. Alvarez at 662-846-4564.