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January 12, 2017 - USA Community Health Advocates Build Garden for Local Residents
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Frewin Osteen, (fourth from left) poses for a photo with Ridge Manor Apartments residents (from left) Gene Mosley, Annie Watkins, Paul Roberson, Judy Johnson, Sherman Coleman and Ned Thomas. As community health advocates for the University of South Alabama Center for Healthy Communities, Osteen and Johnson created a community garden at the apartment complex.

CommunityGarden02.jpgFrewin Osteen and Judy Johnson, community health advocates (CHAs) for the University of South Alabama Center for Healthy Communities (CHC), are the creators of a community garden at Ridge Manor Apartments located in Whistler, Ala.

CHAs assist their communities by bringing awareness and education to specific health issues. They are volunteers who work with the USA Center for Healthy Communities to support the fight against health disparity and promote a healthy lifestyle to those in need.

Osteen, a social worker in Prichard, Ala., and Johnson, a resident of Ridge Manor, wanted to give the elderly and disabled population a chance to participate in a community garden. “Improving the health and well-being of local residents was one of the aims when building the community garden,” Osteen said. “Gardening was something many of the residents expressed an interest in, but they simply did not have access to any of the tools or space to do so.”

Ten raised garden beds were built with the help of residents and volunteers in the community. “The gardens get residents doing something they enjoy, and as a result they are becoming more active," Osteen said. "The gardens are just the right size as to not overwhelm the residents participating."

After applying with the garden committee and signing a contract stating that they will respect and maintain their assigned space, residents who work in the garden are each assigned a bed of their own.

Osteen hopes that by growing and learning about vegetables in their gardens, residents will also learn the importance of nutrition and consume healthier foods. “If we show residents how to grow vegetables, plus how to prepare and eat them, then I think we benefit the community and their health,” Osteen said.

Osteen and Johnson have served for eight months as CHAs. “My philosophy is that people have given a lot to me, and so it is important that I give back to my community,” he said.

Johnson enjoys working with others and in the garden. “Working on the community gardens gives me the opportunity to do both,” she said.

Osteen encourages others to get involved with the health and well-being of their communities. “There is so much to be gained from imparting knowledge to people as a CHA, and also by learning from those around you,” Osteen said.

The Center for Healthy Communities has been designated as the lead entity within USA for coordinating community education, research, public service and health activities to help eliminate health disparities, fostering access to health care for underserved populations, and enhancing the capacity of individuals to better participate in decision making about their health.

For more information about becoming a CHA, click here. For more information about the CHC, click here.

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