One by one on Tuesday, April 22, 2014, some 60 people of varying size, shape, and age will step atop a scale at the Kansas City Public Library’s L.H. Bluford Branch to measure the returns from 12 weeks of sweat and self-discipline.
To the top three finishers in the branch’s annual weight-loss challenge will go prizes ranging from a $100 Visa gift card to a Library gift pack. But the rewards go far beyond that.
With healthier diets and participation in Bluford’s weekly fitness classes, “I’ve literally watched people shrink. It really has impacted their lives,” branch Manager April Roy says. “They’re so grateful. They’re, like, ‘We love being able to come here. It’s free. It’s safe.’”
It’s just one facet of a far-reaching health and wellness initiative sponsored by the Library branch at 3050 Prospect.
- The first in a series of six-week, chronic disease self-management workshops, co-sponsored by Truman Medical Centers, wrapped up at Bluford earlier this month. They’re being held in various neighborhood locations through early 2015, moving to the Library’s North-East Branch, in August and September 2014 and returning to Bluford next January and February.
- The Mobile Market, a traveling produce market making fresh vegetables and fruits available to low-income neighborhoods that otherwise have limited access to supermarkets or other sources of fresh food, stops at Bluford each Tuesday from 10:30-11:30 a.m. It will continue at least through the summer.
- A vision fair, featuring free screening by the Lions Club, will be held at Bluford on Monday, April 28, 2014, and already has reached its ceiling of 50 signups — with a waiting list. Vouchers for eyeglasses, redeemable at local retail outlets, will be available for individuals needing them.
- Bluford is one of four Library branches hosting a series of health fairs in the coming year, offering general health checks by Cleveland Chiropractic College and blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar screenings by Truman Medical Centers. The first of three at Bluford is May 10. Other participating branches are Southeast, I.H. Ruiz, and North-East.
Roy, who arrived at Bluford in 2012, is making the wellness initiative a branch signature, complementing the permanent Health and Wellness Center it houses in partnership with Truman Medical Centers.
The soon-to-be-completed weight-loss challenge saw 61 entrants shed almost a collective 200 pounds in the first eight weeks. Last year’s winner lost 32 pounds over the full 12 weeks.
The challenge is held in conjunction with Tuesday evening cardio-kickboxing classes at Bluford. The branch also offers strength and endurance training on Thursdays.
The chronic disease self-management sessions follow a Stanford University program designed to help sufferers feel less overwhelmed by their conditions. The first round at Bluford, which concluded April 10, had 18 participants.
“The other day, in the chronic disease self-management class, we were going around the room and all of these people who are suffering – I mean really suffering – from all of these chronic conditions were talking about things in their life that they were grateful for,” Roy says. “I was literally weeping.
“These people are suffering. They have chronic pain. One lady’s on oxygen. All these things, they could be totally down in the dumps about. And here they are, talking about what they’re grateful for.
“It’s so fulfilling for me to see. And to know that my community is responding.”