Dr. Kenneth Adler and the Fight Against Hunger Project were honored this past Thursday (April 27th) as Eau Claire Healthy Communities (ECHC) Champions for their efforts to make Eau Claire County a healthier place in which to live.
The late John Stedman was given an Award of Excellence to honor his work as a community organizer. Eau Claire’s Healthy Communities coalition announced the awards during its annual celebration held at Chippewa Valley Technical College.
Adler was honored as the individual Healthy Communities Champion. He was the original driving force behind the Chippewa Valley Free clinic — the person who had the vision and desire to gather a group of like-minded community professionals to create of a safety net clinic for those without the resources to access other healthcare options, according to an ECHC press release.
Through the years, Adler’s leadership kept the clinic going, continuing to recruit more volunteer help, not only from other healthcare professionals but also from supportive community members. As the Chippewa Valley Free Clinic approaches its 20th anniversary this year, he can still be seen walking the halls with a stethoscope around his neck, the ECHC said.
He still volunteers his services as a family practice physician in a clinic that now includes much more than a weekly walk-in clinic. It offers regular hours for specialized clinics for diabetes, mental health, vision care, smoking cessation, dental care, as well as a medications dispensary.
Maribeth Woodford, who nominated Adler, stated, “These last years of uncertainly and change in the healthcare landscape of this country have proved challenging for many individuals, as well as for the Chippewa Valley Free Clinic itself, but Dr. Adler’s original vision is still with them, and we believe his example of leadership has probably helped drive the creation of similar free clinics in Chippewa Falls and Menomonie, sharing his goal of making the Chippewa Valley a healthier community for all.”
The Fight against Hunger Project was selected as the Healthy Communities organizational Champion. The project was recognized for its work promoting healthy living through numerous nutrition projects at Prairie Ridge Early Learning School. Access to healthy food and good nutrition has been a priority for the group. Prairie Ridge provides an on-site food pantry for the preschool that currently gives families 2,000 pounds of food each month.
Since transportation can be a barrier for many of their families, Prairie Ridge set up a summer program where volunteers unload and sort deliveries from the Feed My People food truck. Food is then delivered to families once a month, according to the ECHC press release.
A crock pot project gives families a crock pot along with recipes and ingredients for meals, to help build cooking skills within families. Since 2013, the program has distributed 165 crock pots and 365 recipes and ingredient bags.
Last fall, members of the Fight Against Hunger committee built a Hoop House that will give the school a longer growing season for students and families to garden. The garden will be used as an educational tool for the school as well as supplementing families’ access to healthy foods.
Stedman was honored with the Healthy Communities Award of Excellence for his work as a community organizer. He was nominated by Sandra McKinney, who said “Stedman had a heart of gold (and) a passion for change that was as strong as steel. He was keenly focused and determined to make a difference by improving the lives of people he touched by working with them, and not just for them.”
The ECHC press release called Stedman the “face” of JONAH (Joining Our Neighbors, Advancing Hope), the faith-based grassroots advocacy organization focused on creating real change for people in the Chippewa Valley by empowering them to build a healthier and fairer community.
Stedman played a key role in helping members of ECHC understand the importance of building relationships and hearing the real “stories” of those impacted by health disparities, and helped them acquire skills that were necessary to build authentic relationships with elected officials.
The ECHC Legislative Event, now in its third year, built its success from what was learned from time spent with Stedman, who trained many Healthy Communities members in one-on-one sessions and co-created the training manual that ECHC uses for this. The press release noted that Stedman continually pressed everyone to think about how to engage and work with those impacted by the issue at hand—not just making decisions without or for them, and added that Stedman “truly pushed people to think and work differently in order to create a healthier Eau Claire.”