Butler County receives $20,000 grant for health and fitness

Published 4:43 pm Friday, September 30, 2011

A $20,000 federal grant has been given to the Strategic Alliance for Health, which is out of the Alabama Department of Public Health to use in Butler County.

The grant is to go towards lasting projects that will benefit the health and fitness of the community, Heidi Hataway, a Montgomery Strategic Alliance for Health representative, said.

“Our focus is on changes in communities that are lasting,” Hataway said. “That means looking at the way policies are established or not established, how systems are established or exist in school systems, city government or parks and recreation, parks at YMCAs and also the environmental support that may or may not be present for making the community a healthier place to live.”

City officials gathered at the Butler County Health Department to discuss how the money will be dispersed in the community.

“We’ve already done our budget for the next year, and its tough times for everybody,” Mayor Dexter McLendon said.  “I sure would like to have the $20,000, but everything I saw there was a lot of matching funds from somewhere else. It’s hard right now. I think if I wanted to direct my opinion it would be to our YMCA. I think our Y is where Amanda could work with you all and see some areas so they can do some things.”

The federal grant states that the community has to match 33 percent in either hard money or kind. The grant also states that the money has to be spent within one year.

Amanda Phillips, executive director of the YMCA, said the lot behind the YMCA could be a possible place to spend a portion of the money.

“We have a six-acre lot behind the Y where we used to have an arts and crafts festival years ago so the lighting is already there,” Phillips said. “We have thought about having a walking trail there with the outdoor fitness equipment, because it is adjacent to our football field where people already walk around the field, which is adjacent to the playground for the children to play.”

Another option that was discussed was a possible playground at the elementary school. Angela Green, spokesperson for Pioneer Electric, believed this would be a good idea.

“From a parent’s standpoint, my child is in the school system and one of the meetings that I have always gone to is just a playground at the schools,” Green said. “We don’t have one at the elementary school. I know we have the Y. I know we have Sherling Lake that I like to go to. But just as a single person with a small child, I can’t go to the walking trail. I’m terrified to go to that walking trail. If we had something maybe around the school where it’s lit, and you can see it I would be more focused.”

The last option that was discussed was from Darren Douthitt, superintendent for Butler County schools.

“We talked about a lot of things you all have talked about like the nature trails,” Douthitt said. “We have a couple in some of our schools that are overgrown, and Auburn has some money and they want to partner with us on so this would be hand in hand with the project that would make our P.E. programs more robust and more engaging. The fact is, we see some needs already. We have several things we’d like to partner with you on.”

Strategic Alliance for Health is a five-year program with the CDC, and is a cooperative agreement program, which means Strategic Health works on a day-to-day basis with officers in the CDC.

“They make sure the program rolls out into communities as it should,” Hataway said. “Our annual budget is $900,000. The program was structured through CDC and the legislation that authorized it from the U.S. Government to be sure it a community-driven program. 75 percent of the program funds are expended at the community level, and there’s a smaller amount of funding at the state level. We work primarily with, throughout the whole five-year period, with three funded communities: Dallas, Perry and Sumter County.

In the third, fourth and fifth years of the program, each funded county takes on two additional counties that are mentoring counties. Butler County is a mentored county from Dallas County, Hataway said.

Strategic Health has a goal to complete all project by June 1, 2012. The next meeting to finalize the spending of the $20,000 will be Nov. 10.