Community Committee 2020 Annual Report

In All, At Work by Bill Neely

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The mission of the Community Committee is to promote wellness programs and community activities that motivate people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities to live a healthy lifestyle.   Through extensive partnerships and teamwork with public, private, and non-profit leaders, our committee engages and empowers communities to seek physical activity, engage in mindfulness opportunities, and adopt good nutritional traits.

San Antonio Walks’ Bert Pickell is the Chair and South Texas Off-Road Mountain Bikers’ Brenda Gonzalez is the Vice Chair.  Up through September 2020, Yoga Seva Institute’s Shari Gaienne performed as Vice Chair for Community Engagement and Stay Well’s Kristi Docwra performed as Vice Chair for Community Outreach.  MFC Spirit Award recipient Jean Cheever offered insight and support throughout the year.

The Community Committee is an extremely active team of diverse wellness partners who come together to provide education, promotion, motivation, and inspirational opportunities throughout San Antonio.  It is primarily comprised of wellness specialists, formal organizational representatives, and volunteer wellness advocates.  The Community Committee meets on the 2nd Thursday of the month.  The first three months of 2020 meetings were held in-person at various partner locations.  However, due to the pandemic, the remaining nine (9) were conducted virtually.  Regardless, all meetings continue to average over 30 attendees, and as reported in past Annual Reports, Community Committee meetings are “happenings” during which information is shared, programs are initiated, and partners are motivated to team.

2020 – A Year Like No Other

Kicked off by a very inspiring Mayor’s Annual Wellness Breakfast and two extremely engaging sessions, one at the Eastside Education & Wellness Center and the other at Phil Hardberger Park East Conservancy, the Community Committee held its surprisingly last in-person session at the Family Service’s The Neighborhood Place during which a record partners came together to plan wellness activities and educational presentations for the 70,000 person “Siclovia,” a downtown “closing of the streets” event.  However, due to the emergency of the pandemic, the event was abruptly canceled.  As the pandemic and lockdowns began to affect the city, we learned immediately from our Metro Health partners about social distancing, positivity rate, mask wearing, and the goal of reaching herd immunity through mass vaccinations.  Needless to say, COVID-19 created a significant hurdle for many of our wellness partners, their organizations, and especially our communities.

Expanding Existing Relationships – Pivoting to Success and Beyond

Immediately, Community Committee core partners adapted to community wellness needs and provided crucial and critical life-enriching support to our families struggling during the lockdown of businesses, schools, and travel.  Our committee continued providing outreach and engagement opportunities to wellness organizations, primarily through the Zoom network and social media.

Community partners made wellness education a primary goal through the creation of a unique, user-friendly Community Partner Directory which not only informed the public of important wellness programs and activities, but the Directory energized past and current partners to form a cohesive team with many community partners looking for ways to merge programs in helping communities battle the limitations incurred from the pandemic.

Since the city’s TVSA film studio was closed, we were unable to produce FitCitySA videos of our partner programs.  However, our existing MFC Endorsement process ramped up, tightened our review process, and provided social media boost and support to live and virtual partner activities. Beginning almost the time of the city’s major lockdown, the Communications Committee, with support from community partners, was able to establish a Weekly Update newsletter which not only kept many partner programs front and center with communities but shared crucial COVID update information which came directly from Metropolitan Health and city/county leaders.

While some organizations were unable to provide the same wellness programs as before the pandemic, many found ways to “pivot” their resources and energies in still fulfilling wellness missions.  A few far exceeded past requirements and expectations, and actually developed new ways to reach and engage the public.  Some examples:

  • Non-profit organizations developed innovative ways to still provide community awareness and active participation in health and wellness campaigns. Behind-the-scenes online leadership led to some succeeding past year in-person fundraising and community participation through new and engaging virtual event options.  American Heart Association, Alzheimer’s Association, American Suicide Prevention, and Zero-End of Prostate (Caregiver Connector program) were a few examples.
  • San Antonio Zoo offered new “drive-through” experiences so that communities could continue to get educational and mental well-being benefits from the zoo’s animals and exhibits. The drive-through experiences helped the zoo maintain animals’ quality of life.
  • Athletic event management partners such as Athlete Guild, IAAP, and Soler Sports developed hybrid combined events where wellness enthusiasts were able to exercise safely in limited in-person settings following proper pandemic guidelines along with a virtual performance option. Some non-profit organization virtual events exceeded past in-person goal events through great teaming with event partners.  Participants had more flexibility and opportunity to focus on fitness.
  • Endurance training partners adapted and overcame. Due to aggressive efforts in live and virtual event training from the San Antonio Roadrunners, San Antonio was identified by the Roadrunners Association of America as a “runner friendly city.”  A distinction only held by Houston within Texas.  Girls on the Run training programs continued to reach within school districts to develop virtual training while schools were going through in-person lockdowns.
  • Non-competitive wellness partners like the American Volkssport Association were able to continue with designated community events, retaining wellness partners and families within their memberships, always adhering to pandemic safety protocol requirements.
  • The phenomenal network of community links that supported in-person International Day of Yoga events in June 2019, were able to provide a much broader and community interactive day of yoga activities virtually on June 2020 with yoga instructors leading various classes to participants locally and globally.
  • Emergence of more updated and frequently changing online wellness education and tools, sometimes through great media and city partnerships. Examples:  Parks’ Homebodies weekly videos, CHEF’s innovative youth-focused cooking videos, Good Spirit Tai-Chi’s seminars with the SA Public Libraries, San Antonio Sports’ iPlay! At Home programs, Common Threads interactive training classes, KLRN PBS training online and Facebook Live events, COX Media Group community event interviews on seven (7) radio stations.
  • The city’s growth in the sport of Cricket. San Antonio Cricket Association, Parks & Recreation, and four (4) different city districts (Districts 5, 6, 7, and 8) worked to provide Cricket at or being planned for Tom Slick, OP Schnabel, and Monterrey parks.
  • The maintenance and development of trails at city parks and along the San Antonio River never lost a beat! San Antonio Parks & Recreation, San Antonio River Authority, South Texas Off-Road Mountain Bikers (STORM), along with the city’s Planning Organization, San Antonio Parks, and various nature conservancy groups kept enthusiasts involved with virtual events while developing more trail opportunities such as Texas’ only natural Phil Hardberger Landbridge and extensions of the Linear Creekways such as Devil’s Den.
  • Organizations utilizing personnel to help in other ways of whole family wellness such as the YMCA doing child care at their locations. Parks Department using many of their community centers’ Wi-Fi networks for Virtual Education Hubs for school children.
  • Support to at-home seniors: Well-Med, CentroMed, AACOG, Oasis, and OATS stayed connected with seniors by visits, virtual training, or other planned informational tools (e.g., Mental Health online and community-distributed resources).
Community Committee Partner Meetings

The meetings took on a more important and active role during this pandemic year.  With many partners being at home or in some lockdown, our meetings were virtual within the Zoom network.  Besides the sharing of information between partners, we noticed a major benefit which has now become a “new norm” for educating and team development – the aggressive use of the Chat Box feature during our meetings.  Partners not only shared contact data but freely connected with partners for individual wellness programs their organizations were working.  This unique online form of networking was encouraged and collected to support other partners after meetings.  In essence, partners connected with each other immediately and built a very healthy team relationship which extended beyond meetings.  Another benefit from the online connecting was bringing more past wellness partners in healthcare together, and a strong dialogue with City District staffers grew from their attending.

Call to Action

One of the greatest benefits of an active forum like the Community Committee is that ALL partners who connect with us, either through the meeting process or with direct messaging, are equal in their passion to make San Antonio a healthier city.  While we meet monthly, community partner aggressively work between meetings utilizing the information being shared and seizing the opportunities to build a dynamic team.  2020 has proven that regardless of impacting community and personal limitations our MFC Community Committee partners can pivot, adapt, and take the initiative in providing wellness leadership.  We’ve been resilient in the most adverse of challenges.

We wish to thank the countless numbers of passionate partners who have attended our meetings and become key elements on an expanding wellness team.  Of course, we hope to build on these successes by providing more open sharing and diverse opportunities for engagement and outreach.  As our teamwork strengthens beyond the pandemic, we will apply further leverage and commitment in tackling community disparities and wellness challenges.