Rural Development Partners and Westervelt Community Investment Project Makes a Difference in Rural Alabama

Rural Development Partners and Westervelt Community Investment Project Makes a Difference in Rural Alabama

05/15/2017

The Rural Development Partners and Westervelt community investment program is paying big dividends in Aliceville, Alabama.

The Rural Development Partners and Westervelt community investment program is paying big dividends in Aliceville, Alabama. Alabama has the second highest adult obesity rate in the country, and 14 counties have adult obesity rates greater than 40 percent.  In 2014, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded funding to Alabama Extension to build community coalitions to address the obesity problem from a grassroots level.  The three-year grant is called Alabama Preventing and Reducing Obesity:  Helping to engage Alabamians in Long-Term Health (ALProHealth).  Each ALProHealth community coalition is tasked with assessing the needs of the community and implementing evidence-based strategies to increase access to healthy food choices and physical activity opportunities, which often are very limited in rural areas throughout Alabama.

The Aliceville ALProHealth Coalition engaged community partners capable of bringing the support and reach of their respective organizations to create the greatest impact.  Aliceville is a rural community of 2,000 residents with a poverty rate of 38 percent.  Throughout the county, 74 percent of children are eligible for free or reduced meals and the median household income is $29,839 per year. During the ALPROHealth needs assessment, a central location to create a farmers market and a safe space for physical activity quickly emerged as top priorities for the Coalition.  

Local businesses and the City of Aliceville have been integral to the success of the Coalition.  The city’s support in overhauling the city park to make the existing walking track safer and more appealing was the first step in the process.  The Coalition was able to install $22,000 worth of outdoor exercise equipment.  During this phase, the Coalition began to envision adding a pavilion for a central farmers market location and a place to host community exercise classes and events.   

With these efforts gaining recognition throughout the community, other organizations reached out to partner with the Coalition.  The Westervelt Corporation approached Pickens County Extension staff about the potential for funds from the Rural Development Partners and Westervelt community investment program to be used in the county.  

Further discussion between the Rural Development Partners/Westervelt Community Investment Program partnership and the Coalition led to the determination the utilization of community investment funds for the new pavilion met the greatest need of the low income community.  

After months of planning and hard work, ground was broken on a pavilion at Aliceville’s City Hall Park.  With $117,000 from the Westervelt Corporation and Rural Development Partners and $34,000 from the city of Aliceville, Coalition members and community partners transformed Aliceville City Park from an under-utilized greenspace into a popular destination for community residents.  The park is now a community hub and used throughout the day including the early morning and late evening hours.  Citizens feel safe using the park for exercise with its constant traffic and police patrols, and because they are not alone in their efforts to become healthier.  The pavilion was completed in early 2017 with the grand opening scheduled for June 10, 2017.  

A partnership between the University of Alabama and Pickens County has been established that designates Pickens County as a “teaching area” for University of Alabama Medical and Health Services students.  This is funded by a $660,000 grant from the State of Alabama and the program is currently being developed.

Other activities the Farmers Market Pavilion will be used for are:

  • Pickens County Farm City Celebration and Luncheon
  • Aliceville High School Reunion (June 2017)
  • Movie night in the park
  • Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony and Community Choirs
  • Outdoor Yoga and Zumba Classes
  • Healthy cooking classes
  • Aliceville Street Fair – October
  • Family Reunions
  • Walking Clubs
  • Local church, community and school activities
  • Farmers Market
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