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Wealth of Health: Arc of Monroe County

 
The Arc of Monroe County has found a clever and affordable way to deliver many of its wellness programs to staff members.
 
Many members of the organization’s wellness committee, led by registered dietitian Elissa Strassman, have special talents that they volunteer to share with colleagues. For example, Emily Brown, instructor of an in-house dance troupe, volunteers to lead a stretching and movement class for employees. Tracy Marchese, an employee of the Arc’s Job Path program, teaches kickboxing. Liz Sheen, a registered nurse, helped Strassman develop and deliver a four-part stress management workshop. Horticultural specialist Ashley Klaus led a class on container gardening, which enables her students to grow nutritious vegetables and herbs in any location. And Tiffany Bloom, the Arc’s director of DeliWorks, guides Strassman on healthy food options for new-hire orientation and training sessions.
 
The wellness sessions do not incur any expenses for the organization, Strassman says.
 
"It’s hard to provide wellness programs when you’re on a limited budget. By volunteering their time and talents, everyone benefits."
 
The committee has 15 members who explore ways to promote healthy habits among more than 700 employees. Those employees work with 3,500 individuals with developmental disabilities.
 
With an eye toward promoting healthy eating during the holidays, the wellness committee organized an Eat Well, Live Well Challenge last November. A cooking competition gave participants $25 gift cards from Wegmans and the assignment to conceive and create a healthy meal for four.
 
The results were incredible, Strassman notes. Food selections included acorn squash soup, a grilled sandwich with vegetables and chickpeas, baked apple chips with no added sugar or salt, orange-scented green beans, and cupcakes that contained butternut squash puree and applesauce instead of unhealthy oils. Three wellness committee members and one employee’s son served as judges.
 
"Our employees’ culinary skills came out of the woodwork," Strassman says. "It was an awesome event-fun, healthy and creative."
 
The Arc also brings in experts on wellness. A chiropractor spoke on spinal health; heart specialists addressed hypertension and cholesterol concerns; and banking professionals presented tips for healthy money management.
 
Employee participation rates are high: 70 percent of staff members took part in at least one wellness activity in 2011. Incentives include reduced health care premiums for completion of the health and wellness program, fitness center reimbursements for frequent use and Weight Watchers membership reimbursements for those who stick with it.
 
The Arc’s overarching wellness goal is simple, Strassman says. "We want to reach out and touch everyone’s needs within the organization. Our goal is to help employees achieve a healthy mind, body and spirit and attain a good balance of life and work."
 
6/8/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email [email protected].

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