West Hamlin Proves Cooperation for Better Health Thrives in Small Communities Too.
If you build it, they will come is not just a line from a famous baseball movie. In the small town of West Hamlin, population less than 750, one project ignited a radical transformation of the community.
The organizers behind the West Hamlin Community H.O.P.E. Center cleared an abandoned lot that residents called the “Hole.” When other groups such as the Go-Getters 4H Club chipped in to help, together they created a field of dreams. More than that, these efforts sparked a healthy revolution, leading to West Hamlin earning West Virginia Healthy People Healthy Places (WVHPHP) Gold status.
“The H.O.P.E. Center’s purpose is the educate the citizens of Lincoln County with healthy alternatives, including healthy eating habits, drug prevention, physical activities and mental health” – Clayton Alford, project development manager
What began as a restored baseball field then led to a park that has a new walking trail, raised-bed gardens, fruit trees and stress-reducing greenery. The groups also built a multi-purpose building where West Hamlin residents can congregate to play, celebrate, be active, grow produce, and attend cooking and canning classes.
“The H.O.P.E. Center’s purpose is the educate the citizens of Lincoln County with healthy alternatives, including healthy eating habits, drug prevention, physical activities and mental health,” says Clayton Alford, project development manager at the center. He explains that in addition to the summer food program for the community’s kids, after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, the center will offer exercise programs and host cultural events and community gatherings.
Today in West Hamlin, farmers are encouraged to bring their produce to the community and set up temporary roadside markets – no permit is required nor are peddler’s fees charged. The Lincoln County Co-op brings a traveling farmer’s market to the West Hamlin United Methodist Church. The farmer’s market also serves patients at the Lincoln County Primary Care Center, which, in turn, has a lunch program that encourages employees to follow healthy eating practices. Even the local food bank is onboard with helping West Hamlin residents make better dietary choices, by using signage to let patrons know which foods are among their healthiest options.
West Hamlin’s WVHPHP Gold recognition should serve as inspiration and motivation for communities of all sizes. Big change can start with small incremental steps. What ideas can your community build on to inspire and help your residents live more healthier lives?
West Virginia Healthy People Healthy Places recognizes communities of all sizes around the state that meet key health benchmarks to build healthier places to live, learn, work, eat, and play.youryp