Wow, 2014 was productive! Join us for an even better year in 2015!

Wow, what a productive year 2014 has been! As this year comes to a close, we wanted to share some of the wins that YOU helped achieve with your communities in 2014– and a sneak peek of what’s to come in 2015.

Healthy Communities Coalition of Lyon and Storey (HCC) is composed of hundreds of community volunteers, and dozens of group partners working together. Thank each and every one of you for everything you do – making long term, positive impacts takes all of us. Below is just a small sample of this year’s work and its reach:

Volunteers, who are so generous with their time, skills and labor, are a very important part of Healthy Communities Coalition. The outcomes listed below would not be possible without more than 30,000 hours of work that volunteers contributed to their communities through HCC in 2014. Thank you, volunteers!

HCC’s Silver Stage Co-Op Association: Silver Stage Co-Op Association is Silver Springs’ community-owned store where locals make the decisions, create jobs and contribute economically to a local food system with more opportunities to buy and grow local and fresh foods. The Co-Op includes a buying club and a store front. Co-Op members are also key volunteers and organizers at the community garden and hoop house, local organic school garden, the summer farmers market, the regional toy drive, and the weekend food backpack program for local students. This year they were key volunteers and contributors to the very popular new “Punkin’ Chunkin” event at the Lyon County Fly-In, a fun cross-disciplinary STEM education challenge that involved hundreds of students and a whole lot of pumpkins. The Co-Op is part of HCC’s “Healthy Food Hub”, an effort to increase access to affordable, locally grown and produced healthy food.

Farm to School: With a $100,000 USDA grant, Healthy Communities has been working with local farms, vendors, cooperatives, food management companies, the Lyon County School District, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Mason Valley sites throughout the county to use proven strategies for increasing local food in the school lunch program, for increasing school gardens production, and for encouraging the use of school garden produce in student snacks at the Boys and Girls Clubs. 2014 showed big successes with many area farmers applauding possibilities for increased economic prosperity and welcoming the chance be part of providing more fresh, local food to children. The grant goals also include increased good health and wellness for children, and an increased number of food-literate children through the use of hands-on learning in Lyon County School District’s many thriving school gardens.

Community Roots is HCC’s nonprofit garden center and much more. It continues to be an immensely popular place both for gardeners looking for quality items, and for adults and youth interested in volunteering or in developing job skills. Community Roots volunteers and staff run the garden center and a farmers market in Dayton with local farm produce and farm products beginning in June each summer, and they provide technical assistance for other towns interested in creating nonprofit farmers markets. Community Roots staff also provide ongoing technical assistance, materials and training to school and community gardens in Lyon and Storey towns, and they oversee teen internships in sustainable agriculture, farmers markets that welcome SNAP and senior coupons, canning classes using “gleaned” excess local produce, etc. Community Roots staff and volunteers are also key to Farm to School efforts in Lyon to increase local produce in school lunches and Boys and Girls Club snacks. Community Roots is part of HCC’s “Healthy Food Hub”, an effort to increase access to affordable, locally and sustainably grown, healthy food.

Advocacy for Jobs- Creating “Cottage Food Law”: Since it was passed in summer of 2013, Nevada’s Cottage Food Law has helped create hundreds of new jobs and has helped foster and encourage entrepreneurship as well as the expansion of value added products by Nevada’s farmers. In 2015, we hope to see the law expanded to include certain types of pickled foods – we are affectionately referring to the legislation we’re hoping for as the “Pickle Bill.” The current law has allowed home cooks and small farmers to sell a range of products such as baked goods, jams and dried herbs, herbal vinegars, etc. without being required to invest in an expensive commercial kitchen. The bill, which was co-sponsored by Senator Aaron Ford and Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel, was supported by the participants in the Nevada Small Farm Conference, farmers, bakers, NevadaGrown, Healthy Communities Silver Stage Co-Op, Community Roots, food pantries, the State’s “Nevada Food Security Strategic Plan”, the 2012 Northern Nevada Food Summit, and the Nevada Agribusiness goals of the Nevada Stronger Economies Together Regional Plan, Food Bank of Northern Nevada, and many others. Over the last two summers, you may have noticed many new local Cottage Food products such as dried herb mixes, homemade jams, breads and pies, etc. at your local farmers market.

Food Pantries: HCC’s Silver Stage Food Pantry is no ordinary place for several reasons. To begin with, it’s an amazing “volunteer -powered” spot where people find food to assuage their hunger – 1,915 individuals found relief from hunger at the Pantry in November of 2014 alone! But people visiting the Pantry also find kind volunteers who listen, and are trained to connect them to other local assets and resources such as job skills training, health care services, “grow your own food” skills, social clubs, etc. The Pantry is also unusual in that it truly uses a model of “co-production” – those who are beneficiaries of the food pantry are welcomed to become equal partners and are a vital part of the planning, design and delivery of services and goals to strengthen their communities. Dozens of volunteers of all ages contribute around 1,000 hours of work to the Pantry each month! Co-production is about moving away from the idea of the passive individual receiving services, to an approach which focuses on the value all people can have on the positive development of their own communities.

Huge thank you to Community Chest and Walmart: In 2014, Walmart once again awarded funds to the nonprofit Community Chest to help fight hunger, to increase access to good nutrition and to locally grown produce, and to expand access to job training and employment opportunities. This year, Walmart doubled the amount awarded last year, from $35,000 to $70,000. Over three years’, Walmart has given a total of $140,000 in awards. The increased funding this year not only adds funding support for emergency food distributed through Healthy Communities Coalition’s Silver Stage Food Pantry, but also supports the expansion of Community Chest’s employment case management program (AdultWorks) in Lyon and Storey towns. The program helps connect folks to job training resources and to employment opportunities, so that families not only survive, but thrive.

HCC’s Dayton Food Pantry is powered by dozens of hard working volunteers who contribute hundreds of hours of volunteer work each month. In 2014, volunteer Bill Fehr was honored with a “Community Advocate” award during the regional Thrive Conference for his tireless and compassionate service at the Dayton Pantry where he’s contributed an average of 20 hours a week for more than 6 years. He says his favorite thing about volunteering is “seeing the smiles on people’s faces.” That spirit of neighborliness is behind the pantry’s success. Every part of the community – – clubs, nonprofits, schools, county services, businesses, faith groups, etc – work together to increase food security and to decrease hunger in their town. The Pantry also invites health care groups, employment agencies, etc. to provide services during the Pantry’s monthly distribution of USDA commodities.

Home Visiting Program for Families: Healthy Communities was awarded $679,559 from the State of Nevada for a Home Visiting program through the Healthy Families America grant. Funds are being subgranted to direct service agencies Community Chest in Storey County, and Lyon County Human Services, and their trained and professional staff members, will implement the services in each county. Studies have confirmed the positive impacts of home visiting for children and families. These programs yield between $3 – $6 in savings to federal, state, and local governments for every dollar spent. Home Visiting services help support positive parenting, develop nurturing homes and promote healthy child development through regular home visits by trained professionals. Home visiting services assist pregnant women, mothers, fathers, and caregivers in the education of their young children to improve maternal and newborn health, improve school readiness, and to reduce child injuries, neglect, and abuse.

RAM: With an invitation from HCC, the internationally known and respected group Remote Area Medical (RAM) came to both Northern and Southern Nevada in April 2014, providing free health care services to nearly 2,000 people from many communities, with a value of $350,180 for services provided in Northern Nevada alone. RAM will be back in Oct. of 2015, visiting Yerington, Carson City and Las Vegas. You can sign up to serve as a volunteer by going to their website at Healthy Communities Coalition is the sponsoring legal entity for the visits, with generous hosts such as CARE, Carson City Health and Human Services, Partnership Carson City, and Boys and Girls Clubs of Mason Valley. The RAM visits are possible due to the work of hundreds of general volunteers, many health care professional volunteers, and dozens of diverse groups. We’re so grateful that RAM is able to visit our state and bring their dental, medical and vision equipment and add to local volunteers’ health care outreach for Nevadans.

MORE: the 3rd Medical Outreach Response Event organized by HCC brought hundreds of general volunteers and dozens of health care professional volunteers together in June 2014 to provide free dental, vision, mental health and medical services to hundreds of rural Nevadans. The services were offered at the Silver Stage High School building.

Community Health Advocates: HCC’s certified Community Health Advocates provide free classes on self-management of diabetes and other chronic conditions; tobacco use cessation; Mental Health “First Aid”, healthy cooking classes, and more throughout the year. The Advocates are part of the developing “Health Services Hub” and “Healthy Food Hub” in our region, and they’re able to provide classes in Spanish as well as English language.

Health Services Hub: Many groups and individuals, working together strategically with Lyon School District and Healthy Communities, are expanding access to dental, medical, vision and behavioral health care in rural Lyon and Storey Counties. This year alone, the “Health Services Hub” resulted in increased vaccines; dental services (fillings and extractions, treatment of abcesses, application of flouride, varnish and brushing technique instruction, sealants and exams); mental health screening, referrals, and counseling; suicide prevention training; vision screening and eye glasses; substance abuse prevention classes and educational campaigns. The hub grew from a spring 2013 Nevada Health Division planning grant for Healthy Communities to study possibilities for a school-based health system. In 2014, the Hub has gained further funding for development and implementation, partly through a federal grant called Safe Schools Healthy Students that will provide more than $8 million through SAPTA to Lyon (through Healthy Communities), Washoe (through Children’s Cabinet) and Nye (through Nye Coalition) over the next few years.

Stand Tall: In the book “Building Healthy Communities For Positive Youth Development” authors Michael Nakkula, Karen Foster, Marc Mannes and Shenita Bolstromn write, “We saw more authentic youth involvement in Healthy Communities Coalition than perhaps any of the other 7 initiatives in our study.” (page 173). HCC’s Stand Tall teams are sponsored in every high school in Lyon County by Healthy Communities. These bright young leaders get high praise wherever they go for their commitment to serving and improving their communities. Every year, they work with their schools and communities to prevent alcohol, tobacco, prescription and other drug use and to promote good nutrition and fitness. The teams also take on a number of projects every year to serve their communities, including coat, shoe and food drives, and this year, they were delighted to add their volunteer service to the holiday art show at St. Mary’s Art Center in Virginia City. Stand Tall helps raise funds for their own operating expenses by providing face painting and other services at community events. In addition, Stand Tall teams sponsor 4 annual community 5K Walk/Run events to promote fitness and to raise funds for their Stand Tall college and technical school scholarships.

Arts in Public Spaces: Healthy Communities places high value on access to the arts, and to supporting intiatives that allow more people participate in creating in the arts. HCC was excited to add volunteer and technical support to some of St. Mary’s Art Center’s high quality events in winter 2014, and to add a bit of technical support to the fabulous new Silver City Arts group. HCC was also very grateful to Capital City Arts Initiative for all their help in bringing nationally respected poets and professional artists as guest presenters at Silver Stage High, Silver Springs Elementary, and Dayton High in 2014. And Nevada Arts Council was a very generous funder to HCC for a planning grant to create a Cultural Resources Inventory of the 4 towns of the Comstock region this year. That Inventory led to increased networking among arts groups and advocates, with shared volunteers, marketing, and block booking in Silver City, Dayton and Virginia City and big plans for more in 2015.

What’s in store for the year 2015? Do you think everyone should have access to affordable, fresh, healthy, locally grown and produced foods? Want to see a more efficient and effective system of delivering health care and mental health care services to rural areas? Are you hoping for more arts in public spaces? Want to see more farmers supported in their efforts to sell locally? Interested in meeting young leaders working hard to improve their communities? Then get ready: 2015 will be an adventure!

Please join us for coffee and breakfast at the next HCC meeting on Thurs Jan. 8th, 2015 at 9 a.m. at the Silver Springs Community Center as we dance into a beautiful new year.