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HEAL Town Spotlight: Big Stone Gap, VA

Updated October 2018

Residents of Big Stone Gap get their heart rate up while participating in a Saturday morning Zumba class.

We’re going to try to get people outside and add a mile…. We’re trying to add each mile to get a million miles walked each year.

— Tammy Grimes, Director of Parks and Recreation

The Town of Big Stone Gap joined the HEAL Campaign in April 2017 after Tammy Grimes, the Town’s Director of Parks and Recreation, heard about the program at the fall 2016 Virginia Municipal League Conference. Inspired to take on a new initiative to bring healthier options to Town residents, Ms. Grimes brought the resolution to the Town Councilmembers. Through the adoption of the HEAL resolution, the Town reinforced its commitment to health and well-being and resolved to 1) improve residents’ access to affordable and nutritious foods and 2) improve municipal workplace wellness activities.

Big Stone Gap has historically been an active proponent of healthy and active lifestyle choices. Describing the Town’s longstanding commitment to health and wellness, Ms. Grimes discussed the Town’s farmers market initiative that touches on many of the HEAL goals outlined in the Town’s resolution. Every week the Town hosts local entertainers and activities to bring more folks out to the market. The market offers EBT/SNAP benefits to residents as well as a program that gives every child $10 in “Kids Bucks” to spend on healthy, local produce. In addition, the Town offers free Zumba classes every Saturday at the Town’s Visitor Center that is located next to the weekly farmers market. “In the summer we would even go outside in the parking lot and do it where everyone could see us. It was a huge draw,” commented Ms. Grimes.

In January 2018, the Parks and Recreation Department will launched a million-mile program to encourage residents to walk a collective one million miles along the newly completed 2.8-mile greenbelt path that runs through the downtown and along two nearby rivers. The challenge encourages residents to use the path and contribute to the Town challenge mile by mile. “We’re going to try to get people outside and add a mile…. We’re trying to add each mile to get a million miles walked each year,” said Ms. Grimes.

Municipal workers are also encouraged to use the greenbelt path on lunch breaks or to conduct walking meetings—a healthy alternative to keep workers up and active throughout the day. This is a component of the Town’s workforce wellness strategy that is working to further wellness goals among Town staff members. Strategies include a program to provide discounted gym memberships to municipal staff and a new initiative to encourage regular walking meetings for Town Council meetings.

In October 2018, the Town was awarded Gold level recognition for these impressive milestones. Moving forward, the Town hopes to continue advancing its HEAL agenda through new policies and practices that will help the Town offer healthier options to residents. Whether the community is participating in an annual 5-K Glow Run along the greenbelt, working out at a weekly Zumba class, or learning about healthy food choices at a municipal staff training—the Town is facilitating its health and wellness goals in new and innovative ways that provide a convenient and more accessible path to healthy behavior change for all.