LC awarded grant of more than $110K to ‘Step Up’ community fitness

By Dr. Elizabeth Christian

July 20, 2020

Louisiana College has been awarded a Healthy Behaviors Program Grant from The Rapides Foundation to increase access to health and fitness opportunities for the greater Pineville area.

The grant award of $111,200 over three years beginning July 1, 2020, will fund in part the Step It Up, Pineville program and the Parrish Fuller Fitness Trail.

President Dr. Rick Brewer said he is incredibly thankful for The Rapides Foundation’s continued support of LC and the community as a whole and believes this project, in particular, will better the lives of thousands in Central Louisiana.

“The Rapides Foundation is an integral community partner for Louisiana College and Central Louisiana. Their financial support continues to support projects to benefit all of us across every demographic.  This grant exemplifies the Foundation’s commitment to improving the health status in Cenla.

“Step It Up, Pineville and the rehabilitation of the Parrish Fuller Fitness Trail will allow LC to put our new mission into action.  As a Christ-centered community, we are responsible to reach and engage our entire community, and this is a way we can address some of the physical and health needs of our friends and neighbors.”

The grant was written by Dr. Sonia Tinsley, division chair of the Division of Allied Health.

The fitness trail was created more than 40 years ago by Parrish Fuller of Oakdale, and at one time was a wonderful resource on campus, Tinsley said. But over the years, use of the trail decreased and funds had not been available to put toward improvements.

“We are thrilled to receive a grant from The Rapides Foundation to help create a positive change in the fitness and health of individuals by increasing physical activity in the community through a physical activity program, Step It Up, Pineville and make improvements to the Parrish Fuller Fitness Trail,” Tinsley said.

According to The Rapides Foundation’s 2018 Community Needs Assessment, currently only 19.1% of Rapides Parish adults meet physical activity guidelines.

“Walking is an easy way to start and maintain a physically active lifestyle,” Tinsley said. “The Health and Exercise Science Department will provide physical activity workshops to educate the community on the benefits of exercise, guidance on organizing walking groups, and orientations on using the Parrish Fuller Fitness Trail.”

Community leaders have already showed support for the project.

The City of Pineville will assist in recruitment of community organizations to participate in Step It Up, Pineville, host physical activity workshops and provide worksite wellness activities for employees. And Louisiana Athletic Club will also assist in recruitment of its members to participate as well as provide professional expertise with designing physical activity program to be offered at the fitness trail.

Pineville Mayor Clarence Fields said he is glad The Rapides Foundation with its resources always puts the health of the community at the forefront of its funding.

“Louisiana College is a vital part of our community, and anything that benefits LC, we get the opportunity to utilize,” Fields said. “It makes it better for the city of Pineville.”

Dr. Joshua Joy Dara, pastor of the Zion Hill Baptist Church of Pineville, penned a letter on behalf of the grant and will host physical activity workshops for members, as well as organize walking groups to encourage use of the fitness trail.

“It will mean a lot to our community,” said Dara, who is also dean of the School of Human Behavior at LC. “LC is only few blocks from our church where I pastor more than 4000 people. The walking trail will provide the opportunity to reduce risk of heart disease, cholesterol, blood pressure, hypertension, diabetics and anxiety. More so, the walking trail will improve people’s cardiovascular fitness, overall mental wellbeing and strengthen bonds and relationship with family, friends and loved ones as they walk together. It is much needed.”

The Rapides Foundation award will be used to repair, widen, and repave the fitness trail along with overlaying existing exercise pads with a rubber safety surface and installing exercise equipment.

These expenses will help incorporate the CDC’s strategies to increase physical activity in the community by enhancing access to places for physical activity. Another strategy being used in the Step It Up, Pineville program is to provide social support interventions in the community, said Tinsley, program director. The upgrades to the fitness trail will help make it easier to have walking groups meet at the trail which is an activity that provides social support.

The trail will be maintained by LC, and the Department of Safety and Security will monitor the grounds. In addition, the Step It Up, Pineville program will include fitness classes taught by health and exercise science faculty and student majors.