The INN Between non-profit first opened its doors in August of 2015 to give hospice to homeless individuals in Salt Lake City.
Situated on a quiet, tree-lined street in Poplar Grove, its campus is comprised of two buildings. One is a small, 4,000-square-foot, 13-room building that was once a home for nuns of the Catholic Church, and also a shelter for women escaping domestic violence. This building currently has 16 beds for terminally ill and seriously ill homeless people (and in a few cases, their spouses or caretakers) who are referred by homeless agencies or hospitals. The second building is the former Guadalupe elementary school, built in 1954, that houses their administrative offices and meeting rooms.
Over the past two years, about 110 homeless individuals have come through their program, and 25 have passed away. The other 85 individuals were with The INN Between to recuperate from acute illnesses such as pneumonia or a wound, or to undergo intensive treatments, such as chemotherapy or surgery, which can't be initiated unless the patient has a stable home environment.
“We do our best to help these clients secure stable housing before they leave The INN Between, but many return to the streets due to the shortage of affordable housing,” said Kim Correa, Executive Director of The INN Between. Sometimes, terminally ill residents might go home to family or the hospital at the very end, but in most cases they stay with The INN Between through end of life.
“The need for these services is very great. We are at capacity and have a waiting list of about 15-20 people,” said Correa.
The INN Between is currently in the early process of conducting a feasibility study to build a new building that would replace the existing buildings and increase the number of beds. The feasibility study is considering what a 25-35 bed facility might cost and look like. Early estimates for the project are between $6 and $6.5 million. According to Correa, the current Guadalupe school building requires over $1M in earthquake retrofitting, and would be very costly to remodel into a care facility. “The buildings we are in now are quite old and have several issues, and a new building would be designed to beautify the neighborhood,” she said.
The INN Between operates as an Independent Living Facility, and these types of facilities do not require a license by the State Department of Health. “We partner with Intermountain Healthcare Home Health and Hospice who provides the end-of-life care our residents need and we work with those nurses and doctors to make sure patients are able to stay with us,” said Correa.
To qualify, residents must be homeless, over the age of 18, have low income, and have a seriously ill or terminally ill condition. They must be capable of independent living, such as doing activities like walking, using the toilet, eating, and bathing. “Some people have a perception that ‘I’m dying and I’m going to be bed ridden,’” Correa said, “but in most cases, people are up and walking around until the very end, but then all of a sudden they decline, and they decline very quickly.”
“There are some misconceptions about The INN Between,” Correa said. “A lot of people think we are a shelter, but we are nothing like a shelter. There’s a misconception that we take anyone – people with a cold or a sniffle or a cut – but with our limited space, we work very closely with local hospitals, the Fourth Street Clinic and other service providers to prioritize individuals with the greatest need.”
Neighbors have expressed fears that The INN Between could become crime-ridden like the Rio Grande area. They worry about the lack of a cap on the number of beds.
Some nearby residents have been skeptical of the INN Between’s mission, and critical of activity on the property, such as smoking. “We really do the best we can to work with neighbors. With a new building, we could address even more of the concerns residents have. One goal would be to have an enclosed, filtered atrium on the roof for smokers.”
Other concerns have been expressed about increased traffic, and safety issues related to sex offenders in the facility. Some residents who are on the sex offender registry have not updated their address since moving to The Inn Between.
In the past, residents have used the Poplar Grove Community Council meetings to air their concerns, but the issue tended to take over the meetings. To help keep lines of communication open, Correa has formed a resident-run Neighborhood Advisory Council to hear neighbors’ concerns, answer questions and receive input about ways to improve operations and neighborhood relations.”
The Neighborhood Advisory Council meets the first Wednesday of every month from 7 to 8 p.m. at The INN Between. Everyone is welcome to come and bring concerns or questions to the council.
"What will I do now that I am out of treatment?" This is the haunting question for most people as they transition from rehab to a larger world. Making the commitment to enter a facility for drug and alcohol addiction is a huge step, and people often struggle to know what is next. They leave feeling raw and acutely sober for the first time in years.
Fit to Recover was created to help ease the transition from addiction into a fresh and healthy life. Their model is unlike anything yet offered to the recovery community. In its holistic approach, Fit to Recover uses four pillars: Fitness, Nutrition, Creative Expression, and Service. Using these avenues members build strength mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically.
As a registered non-profit, Fit to Recover recently hosted a two-year anniversary fundraiser for a full house, complete with music and poetry performance by FTR members.
However, FTR began as a boot camp-style workout in Sugar House Park. The group had yet to find a building and the weather was turning cold. Founder Ian Acker only knew a few things to be true when he began. One, he loved exercise. It gave him relief in a way that alcohol and drugs had done in the past. Two, he needed to be of service to his fellows. Three, he had a boom box. So he took it to the park, and the thing caught fire.
The Saturday morning group began to thrive. It filled people’s need to connect and grow strong. I personally joined Ian in the park during the summer of 2014, and became wholeheartedly devoted to helping him build his dream. I often said to him (as we lay in the grass, sweaty and exhausted after a workout),"Ian, as long as you don't give up, we can't fail. If you don't give up on FTR, I won't give up on you."
It is this spirit of camaraderie that binds FTR members together. The world of addiction is harsh. We see a lot of relapse and we lose many friends. For this reason, we give all we can in service to each other. Because many of us do make it, and go on to live powerful lives.
I am now employed as the head of the Creative Expression pillar, and I am amazed at how far we have come. In January of 2015 we got our building, located just west of the Sorenson Center in Glendale. Ian and I walked into a blank white warehouse and began painting our first mural on the south wall. We spent many afternoons together painting and dreaming of what FTR would become.
From a sincere desire to serve our fellows, we have built a thriving community. Under the Creative Expression pillar we offer paint night and creative writing. We host poetry readings and record music in our sound booth. Treatment centers bring their inpatient clients for art classes.
We also overlap the Service Pillar with community art projects. We are currently working on a mural along the Jordan River trail just north of 1300 South with Dane Hess and his Latinos In Action (LIA) class at Glendale Middle School. We start painting in mid-May.
James Sjostrom heads the Fitness Pillar. He brings 10-plus years of superior fitness training in Crossfit, StrongFirst Kettlebells, and the new Tact Fit strength programs. A former marine, James is a formidable presence in the gym. However, anyone who trains with him finds his kindness is revealed by a willingness to hold people to a high standard. It also comes out in the "dad jokes," which only he finds funny.
Fitness classes are offered all day every day. This also includes High Fitness and yoga. Founder Ian Acker still runs Boot Camp on Saturday mornings at 10 a.m., drawing a crowd of 100-plus people weekly. This class is free and open to all. It is a great introduction to the community.
The Service pillar is run by “The Little Woman That Could” Rachel Santizo. Rachel was once homeless, and she tells some good dumpster diving stories. The kindness of others pulled her out and gave her a second chance. Ian Acker was one of her first friends. Because of this, her pillar is built on the deep belief that every individual life matters.
In her outreach events, members hit the streets bringing vital items to those living in the harshest conditions. On Christmas Day last year, Rachel brought tents, tarps, coats, hot chili and cocoa as gifts down to the Road Home. In true FTR style, the community rushed in to support her. Many parents including me, brought their children on Christmas morning to show them the true spirit of giving.
Tessa Acker runs the Nutrition pillar and she is just as warm and inviting as her kitchen. Fit to Recover is delighted to have a brand-new, full kitchen upstairs. Tessa hosts workshops on meal preparation, garden planting, quick dinners, sushi rolling and probiotics. She brings a compassionate spirit to her pillar and even offers one-on-one consultations. Her goal is to bring community back around the table in celebration of each other and for our nourishment.
Fit to Recover has grown exponentially in the last two years, and our only aim is to continue to serve. We are located at 789 W. 1390 S. and as neighbors, we are eager to connect.
For more information, visit www.fit2recover.org or find them on Facebook and Instagram. Sarah Kappos is the Creative Expression Director at Fit to Recover. If you would like to receive their newsletter, email her at .
Gay Dawn Pinnecoose grew up in Wyoming doing physical ranch work and playing modified sports games with her six siblings. From elementary school through her freshman year in high school, she would run almost one mile every day to catch the school bus at 6:30 a.m.
Today, with a bachelor’s degree in exercise sports science from the University of Utah, Pinnecoose serves as an advocate for healthy lifestyles for her American Indian/Alaskan Native community. This brings fulfillment to her life. “I believe exercise is medicine; it can help prevent chronic diseases and improve one’s wellbeing,” she said.
Pinnecoose is an enrolled member of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes of Wind River Indian Reservation, Fort Washakie, Wyoming, and moved to Utah in 1982. She has coached and taught recreational sports in the west Salt Lake area ever since she moved here with her family from the Ute Indian Reservation in 1991.
Pinnecoose has been employed through the University of Utah, National Youth Sports Program, and the Salt Lake City School District. She currently works as an IT Site Manager, Exercise Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer at the Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake, where she coordinates group fitness, individual exercise, and gives presentations to American Indian/Alaskan Native communities.
The Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake has a gym for clients and employees to use during work hours and whenever the trainer is available. To improve employee wellness, they encourage staff to join their Healthier You Personal Challenge, in which employees track their exercise and nutrition online for an eight-week period at www.supertracker.usda.gov. They also encourage staff to track their own body composition, blood pressure, blood glucose, and A1C blood test (for diabetes) every six months, as part of their Healthier You Wellness program.
“Staying active gives me the greatest feeling of happiness and if I am not active, I feel a pang of conscience within myself,” Pinnecoose said. She says it is important that she stays fit so that she can be a good example to her clients. She often acknowledges her sphere of influence as those who have inspired her to pursue an active lifestyle. She, in turn, is inspired to help her community get fit by utilizing her personal training and expertise along the way.
For those struggling with poor health, she says, “You are not alone, there are many people struggling with the same health issues as you. While exercising is beneficial for most everyone, if you are taking medications, we will modify the exercises to ensure you have a safe experience while getting results.” For health and fitness advocates, she highlights the importance of reaching out. “Be open-minded, listen, and have empathy, ” she said.
Good health is something we all wish for, but sometimes take for granted. Our health can change quickly with an unexpected diagnosis or a tragic accident. We cannot control everything that may affect our health, such as diseases that we are born with or certain toxins in our environment, but we can take preventative measures to lower our risks for some conditions.
I have been fortunate to enjoy good health for most of my life. I was born strong and healthy and was very active as a child – always dancing and tumbling. I was a kid who did cartwheels and handstands all the time; I couldn’t stay still. I played outdoors often with my sister and friends in our Poplar Grove neighborhood – riding bikes, rollerskating, climbing trees and playing backyard games.
I was born into an active family – one that enjoyed camping, sports and exercise. We skied, swam, played basketball, baseball and golf for fun. As a teen, I swam competitively.
In my early 20s, I backpacked often and got into rock climbing, and I was still swimming for exercise. I worked as a swimming instructor and coach. Between the ages of 22 – 32, I gave birth to three boys, who kept me very active when they were young.
But when I hit my 40s, I started to slow down and lead a much more sedentary life. Both of my jobs now involve sitting for prolonged periods of time.
My body has started feeling the effects of age and overuse; I have issues with my knees, and the muscles in my back and neck. I believe that most of it is due to stress and lifestyle choices, but these issues are minor and treatable. I can control this.
It’s the stuff I can’t control that bites.
About nine months ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer after I went in for a routine mammogram. I was shocked and frightened, especially since I had lost both my brother and mother to cancer within the last decade.
Fortunately, this cancer was detected very early and was treated with surgery (two lumpectomies), radiation and ongoing hormone-blocking therapy. I am very grateful that I have health insurance, and for the expertise of my doctors at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. I am privileged to have access to good health care.
The experts don’t know why I got this cancer – I am fairly young, not obese, breast-fed my babies, don’t smoke, only drink moderately, and genetic testing showed that I do not have the seven known genetic mutations associated with this type of cancer. My diagnosis was inexplicable.
But, one thing this cancer did for me was made me realize how precious life and good health is. It made me think about what matters most in my life – relationships with my loved ones, striving for balance in my life, and making the most of every day.
Through the Huntsman Cancer Wellness Center, I made goals to get regular exercise – 30 minutes of some type of cardio most days, and resistance training twice a week – and to be conscious of my nutrition. I was also advised to eat more of a plant-based diet, and to limit my alcohol intake to less than one alcoholic beverage per day to help prevent the chances of recurrence.
I try not to skip meals, and have to remind myself that I can’t just get through the day on coffee fumes! I have begun swimming and hiking again, and make time for jogging or walking briskly on the Jordan River Parkway Trail. I also try to commute by bike more often.
Staying active and eating healthier may or may not prevent my cancer from recurring, but it does help my body feel better, reduces my stress and improves my mental state.
In this Health & Wellness issue, we have included stories about physical, mental, spiritual and even financial health. Our volunteer contributors wrote about topics that they feel are important or have experience with. A pediatrician wrote about the negative health effects of “toxic stress” exposure in children. A woman wrote about how a local gym helps people in their struggle to stay sober. Another woman shared her personal story of healing from a horrible car accident.
Thank you to all of our contributing writers and photographers and the many volunteers who help out in various ways – doing copy editing, distributing papers, maintaining our website, serving on our board, helping us fundraise, etc. This is truly a collaborative community effort, and The West View would not exist without it.
And, last but not least, I want to give a huge shout out to the local businesses, organizations, and individuals who purchase ad space or donate financially to our community paper. It is you, who sustain us.
We hope that this issue will inspire or help you improve your health or the health of your loved ones in some way. ¡Salud! To your health!
That’s how most doctors and nurses end their visits with patients.
But too few of us take them up on that offer. Sometimes we can’t think of any questions, and other times we’re too intimidated by medical lingo to ask for more details.
But getting patients to talk is how medical providers do their jobs best.
Despite modern medicine’s high-tech scans and tests, the most important tool of discovery remains the simple conversation between a patient and a provider.
“When patients ask me questions it makes their medical care cheaper,” explains Jose Esparza, a family nurse practitioner at the Ellis R. Shipp Community Health Center in West Valley City. “The more I find out about their symptoms, the more accurate I can be in diagnosing their problem and ruling out expensive tests and procedures.”
Plus, there’s medical evidence that talking to your doctor works. A 2014 study from Canada determined that patients who had meaningful conversations with physical therapists about their chronic back pain reported a 55 percent decrease in symptoms even when they didn’t receive medical treatment. This compares to 25 percent of patients who reported less pain with the same fake treatment but no active conversation with their provider.
Jose Esparza likes his patients to be proactive and interested in their health. He has been practicing medicine in the Salt Lake City area for five years. Here are the 10 questions that he wishes all of his patients would ask him.
How much will this cost?
Even if you have health insurance, you are responsible for most of the cost until you meet your annual deductible “Remember that the most expensive medication doesn’t mean it works the best,” says Esparza. “Generic drugs are often just as good.”
How does this medication interact with other drugs?
In addition to allergies, make sure your provider knows about other medications you might be taking. Some combinations can be dangerous. “Patients never ask me about interactions between medications,” says Esparza. “But if you are taking contraceptives and I give you a certain antibiotic, it could make you become pregnant.”
Is there another treatment I could consider?
Most medical problems have more than one treatment or solution. “It’s okay to ask your doctor if there’s another approach you could take,” suggests Esparza.
Can these pills be addictive?
If you or anyone in your immediate family has ever had any trouble with addiction or addictive behavior, tell your provider so that they can prescribe medications that won’t get you hooked.
What are the risks of this test or procedure?
Almost every medication or procedure has some risk. Beyond the short-term side effects, ask about the longer-term risks that might occur months or years in the future, especially if you plan to become pregnant.
How many times have you done this procedure?
Some patient has to be a doctor’s first, just don’t let it be you. If a medical resident or student is doing the procedure, make sure an experienced doctor is supervising them.
Can we do something that doesn’t involve radiation?
X-rays, PET scans, and CT scans see inside your body using radiation, which can trigger cancer. Other imaging like ultrasounds and MRIs don’t use radiation.
How do you spell the name of this drug?
Besides double-checking the notorious bad handwriting of doctors, you should know the names of both the commercial and generic versions of the drugs prescribed to you.
Do you have any commercial or business relationship with this medicine or medical device?
Some providers receive fees or reimbursements from drug companies and device companies. You have a right to know if your provider is financially rewarded for prescribing a specific treatment.
What is the risk of doing nothing?
“I wish more of my patients would ask me about waiting to see if their problem fixes itself,” says Esparza. Not only is this the cheapest option, but it also avoids potentially harmful side effects.
Jason Stevenson manages public outreach, private insurance reform, social media, and communications strategies for the Utah Health Policy Project (UHPP), a nonpartisan, nonprofit health reform advocacy organization. He also serves on West View Media’s Board of Directors.
We live in noisy world. The typical workday consists of bustling traffic, emails, text messages, calls, bumping into people, long reports, extra shots of espresso, and later going to bed waiting to repeat the cycle the next day. Thankfully we have weekends to ease us from the stress of the workweek. Our brains need it. If not, we’d be overworking until we feel like we’re about to explode. It’s like stretching a rubber band until it breaks.
For observant Jews there exists a day in the week where all those stressors are swept away. That day is called Shabbat, and it is basically a day to chill. You probably already practice something similar to the Shabbat during the weekend – maybe less religious. The thing is, it doesn’t need to be religious. The key idea is finding intrinsic value in your life away from work.
Most are familiar with the Christian day of rest, or Sabbath, on Sunday, but the Jewish day of rest (Shabbat) falls on Friday at dusk to Saturday at dusk. It is almost identical to the Islamic day of prayer that Muslims call jumu'ah. The three faiths celebrate the same idea of rest and tranquility.
The Jewish tradition teaches more than just rest on that day. One of the things it teaches is to be uninvolved in worldly events. For one day, they set aside politics, protests, and all those socio-geo-economic stressors that make us want to hide. This one day a week is utilized to focus on the stuff that really matters: your home, yourself, and your mental health.
Abstaining from money and work is part of the Shabbat. Money is an extension of the workweek that the Shabbat tries to avoid. Observers work for six days to reap profit from the earth, but on the seventh day they take a break from the sweat and toil of the workweek.
There are levels of observance of course, and not everyone practices Shabbat the same way. Hasidics are extreme to the point that they will not pluck chicken feathers, turn on lights, cook, operate machinery, or lift. All of those things are considered work.
Unplugging is another cornerstone of Shabbat. My cell phone and laptop is off for a whole 24 hours. Those devices are an extension of productivity. And while there are some uses for enjoyment outside of productivity, I prefer to shut them down and set a day aside for my senses to live a life away from the screen. Not leaving one day aside from those devices would make me feel like I’m working 24/7.
Leaving electronic devices for at least some time is healthy. According to a University of Maryland research, people who unplugged found an increased quality of life by spending more time with family and friends, cooking, getting more exercise – essentially spending free time elsewhere than on the screen.
Another 16-year study from Columbia University shows that families who prepare and have meals together can strengthen family relationships and reduce problems with teen drug abuse.
What did I do last Shabbat? I bought a rose petal bath salt and soaked in the bath for hours. It is a very good feeling hearing nothing but silence in the tub from the traffic, calls, and deadlines. After I got out, I treated myself to some shea butter body lotion and a glass of wine. Then, I headed for bed. I enjoyed an eight-plus hours of deep sleep – this time without the alarm.
The following morning I grabbed a book on Spanish, enjoyed some good company, and painted. Talk about recharging my batteries, ready to tackle Monday.
When Faisal Wahid first moved to Utah in 2015, he didn’t know anyone here from the Indian subcontinent and was looking for ways to become more connected to the community.
His wife, knowing that Wahid’s passion lies in the sport of cricket, started inquiring at the Indian grocery store and other places if there was a cricket league in Utah. They happily discovered that yes indeed Utah has a cricket league that has been around since the ‘80s.
Wahid, like virtually every boy in India, began playing cricket as soon as he learned to walk. To say that cricket is India’s national sport would be an understatement. It is more like a religion that unifies the entire country. It is a source of national pride and patriotism.
With his wife’s encouragement, Wahid joined the Salt Lake Sabrecats team – one of five teams in the Intermountain Cricket League, which was formed in 1986 by a group of international students at the University of Utah.
Over the past year, Wahid has enjoyed playing his favorite sport on Sundays and has expanded his network of friends through his involvement with the league. “It is my ‘me time’ – my one day of recreation,” he said. It also keeps him fit. He works out in a small home gym to stay in shape for the weekly, 4 to 5-hour cricket games.
Cricket originated over 500 years ago and is a predecessor to baseball. It is played on a large elliptical-shaped field with a “pitch” – a hard-surfaced, narrow strip about 22 yards long – in the center. Similar to baseball, it involves batsmen (batters) and bowlers (pitchers) and the object of the game is to score the most runs.
With over two billion followers, cricket is the second most watched sport in the world after soccer. It is very popular in the Indian subcontinent (especially in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka) and is also big in England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the Caribbean.
One of the Intermountain Cricket League’s founders, Nasir Khan, said that the Salt Lake Sabrecats are the most diverse team in the league. They have players from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Australia, Zimbabwe and New Zealand. Although the teammates are from different countries of origin that don’t always coexist peacefully, they put hostilities aside and instead become a “band of brothers” said Khan, who now helps coach the Sabrecats.
“Both the city and the county have been very supportive of our league over the years,” he said. The Sabrecats have historically played on Sundays during warmer months at various parks, such as Sherwood and Cottonwood Parks on Salt Lake City’s west side. They now have a more permanent field at the 11th Avenue Park on Terrace Hills Dr.
Khan is always eager to recruit new players for the league and plans to hold a youth camp later in June for boys, ages 15 and up, who want to learn more about the sport of cricket. For more information, email him at .
Real Food Rising, Green Urban Lunchbox and Salt Lake City are partnering to bring the Urban Greens Market back to Glendale and Poplar Grove this summer. Find specific days, times and locations at www.slcgreen.com/urbangreens
I was driving home on August 5, 2016 after picking up my dog, Nalu, from daycare. I turned a corner onto Redwood Road. That is the last thing I remember from that day before waking in the hospital late that night, confused and groggy, my brother at my bedside.
My brother sat holding my hand, and calmly told me I had been in a car accident. As the story unfolded, I came to realize more and more of my physical condition. My neck was in a brace, my arm taped with an I.V., and my body unable to move.
In South Salt Lake, at around the same time I was driving to pick up Nalu, two men robbed a bank at gunpoint. Police were quickly on scene, and a chase ensued. The robbers ditched their original car and ran on foot. The driver was apprehended right away, while the other man took a different car and sped off again. Police chased him at high speeds up Redwood Road. The robber then took desperate measures and drove into oncoming traffic, colliding head-on with my vehicle.
The crash was horrific, flipping the robber’s vehicle, and causing mine to spin several times (so I was told). I must’ve been knocked out fairly quickly, as I have no recollection of any of this.
The extent of my injuries unfolded the next few days while I was in the hospital. A concussion, punctured lung, broken C5 in my neck, broken scapula, fractured sternum, seven broken posterior ribs, three broken lumbar vertebrae, a sprained ankle, broken big toe, several deep cuts and severe bruising.
Miraculously, my dog didn’t even have a scratch on him, and spent the next two months living with my sister in Idaho. I spent three days in the hospital, and the next two weeks in a rehab center in Salt Lake City, mulling over what had just happened. I couldn’t walk, couldn’t use the restroom by myself, couldn’t shower by myself, and could barely eat by myself. Every little movement caused pain.
I decided I needed to make a goal to work toward. In October, I started looking for a 5K that I could train for, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to do more than walk it. I found the “Beat the New Year” 5K in Salt Lake City on New Year’s Eve, and signed up. At that point, I was able to walk on my own fairly well without too much pain, but I knew I’d need to build my strength if I was to make it to the finish line. Once my doctor approved the idea, I started working with my physical therapist to train twice a week.
Considering my ankle was sprained, my lower back and ribs caused aches at every twist, and my neck was still in a brace, working out seemed daunting. My trainer gave me specific workouts to avoid causing pain, and slowly but surely my muscles became stronger. By the time December came around, I was able to do subtle squats, use light weights and walk on the treadmill for two miles.
A week before the race, I felt stronger than I had in months and was ready to face the 5K. I started the race that night 15 minutes earlier than the crowd. My brother pushed along my wheelchair, just in case I needed it. The race was exhilarating. My adrenaline was pumping, and though by mile two I was beginning to feel the pain in my lower back and ankle, I completed the race. I crossed the finish line two minutes after midnight, but did the whole thing without my wheelchair. I consider that a win.
Now that the race is over, I know I can’t stop. Ringing in 2017, crossing a finish line with a body full of healing bones was quite an accomplishment, but I now want to work toward a sprint triathlon. Focusing my efforts on a specific goal has proven to keep me mentally as well as physically motivated. Keeping myself strong after such a traumatic, life-changing event has been an incredibly positive push for me to live life to the fullest.
Did you know that people with more social ties have been found to live longer, to have better health and to be less depressed? It’s true! Studies have shown that people who feel like their lives have meaning and purpose feel happier, which lowers their heart rate, stress level, and concentration of plasma associated with heart disease. Humans by nature are social animals. Research shows that having a strong network of support or strong community bonds fosters both emotional and physical health. In a study of adults over the age of 50, researchers found that individuals who participated in social or community activities were more likely to report good or very good health.
Being engaged in the community not only strengthens the community, it benefits the individual who is involved. Perhaps the biggest benefit you might feel from volunteering is satisfaction – a sense of accomplishment through incorporating service into your life and making a difference in your community. Everyone has talents and skills. Being involved allows you to use your skills and to further develop the skills you have. You may also find that you develop self-confidence from feeling needed and valued in your community.
It is easy to feel disconnected because it is hard to find time to get involved. Many of us juggle work, school, kids, and activity after activity. But when you find time, the psychological benefits alone are worthwhile reasons to serve. You may end up making friends, gaining professional development through awards, job and education certifications, and networking with influential people.
Through service, you can add to the quality and health of your life. The research indicates that volunteers enjoy better health, make new friendships, stay active and involved in the community, and learn new skills. If you don’t believe the science, listen to Gandhi who said, “You may never know what results come of your actions, but if you do nothing, there will be no results.”
So what does this mean for you? Here are a few ways you can take advantage of of what’s happening in your neighborhood!
Participate in your Community Council
The easiest way to get informed about what is going on in your community is by attending your monthly community council meeting. These organizations provide advice to city officials and are directly engaged with identifying community priorities and working on problem solving. Getting involved with your council is one of the best ways to make a difference and advocate for important local issues. And, you get to know your neighbors along the way. Learn more at www.slcgov.com/commcouncils.
Start or Join a Neighborhood Watch
A Neighborhood Watch is a typically group of people living in the same area who want to make their neighborhood safer by working together and in conjunction with local law enforcement to reduce crime and improve their quality of life. Joining your Neighborhood Watch will help deter criminal activity, create a greater sense of security and build bonds with your neighbors. When people look out for one another, they stimulate neighborhood awareness and promote self-care. Learn more at www.slcpd.com/community-engagement/neighborhoodwatch.
Boards and Commissions
Have you thought about joining a Board or Commission? Salt Lake City desperately needs west side residents to participate in city boards such as the Planning Commission, the Business Advisory Board or the Transportation Advisory Board. We need to be represented within the city because Salt Lake City government relies heavily on citizen participation and particularly on those who volunteer their time to serve on boards and commissions. These boards are a wonderful way to use your skills to make improvements in your neighborhood. These bodies bring excellence and experience together to aid in the creation and implementation of public policy. Learn more at www.slcgov.com/ced/bc.
Participate in Open City Hall
Open City Hall is an online forum for civic engagement. You can read what others are saying about important Salt Lake City topics, then post your own statement. City officials read the statements and incorporate them into their decision process. Learn more at www.slcgov.com/opencityhall.
Things to Consider
When you’re asking yourself, “How can I get involved,” consider these questions: Do you have a passion? How much time can you give? What skills do you bring? For example, are your skills and interests more administrative and managerial? Would you want to help run an organization? Where and how do you want to serve? Do you want to help your community, help yourself and make a difference in the lives of someone in need?
What are you waiting for? Get involved in your community. It may be a whole new adventure! And you may just get healthier along the way.
Jade Sarver is the Treasurer of the Fairpark Community Council and founder of Restore North Temple, a citizen-led group focused on supporting the restoration of a Grand Boulevard on North Temple by reducing crime, increasing economic development and improving the perception of the area. To learn more, visit their Facebook page.
Five Tips for Becoming More Civically Engaged:
Attend your community council meeting and volunteer to help. Follow their Facebook pages.
Know who your county, city, state and federal representatives are. Join their email lists.
Meet your neighbors. Start a phone tree. Join or start a Neighborhood Watch.
VOTE! Make your voice heard not just in the big elections, but in local elections too.
Apply to join a commission or board. We need west side representation on all city, county and state boards.