Blue Zones-Brevard Hosts Anniversary Event
Last updated 9/20/2021 at 1:04pm
The Blue Zones Project was launched last August, thanks to the sponsorship of the Pisgah Health Foundation.
The organization's goal is to transform the community's well-being and make it a better place to live through engagement with citizens, businesses and other entities.
Saturday's event attracted hundreds of people to participate in different workshops while also taking a look at various displays of food, art and other activities.
Mark Burrows serves as the policy lead for the Blue Zones Project and said the organization's big push during its first year was to branch out into the community and engage with as many people as possible.
So far, that mission has been a success.
"Everything that we do is metric based and there are performance guaran-tees that we have to meet to satisfy the requirements of the Pisgah Health Foundation," he said.
"One of those goals is how many people we're engaging with and we know over the past year we've engaged with over 2,000 people," Burrows said.
Throughout the year, Blue Zones has offered many programs that are free to the community. Those include different healthy cooking classes, walking moais that encourage community and friendship, and purpose workshops that focus on living a happier, more productive life.
All of these serve as pieces of the larger mission of becoming a Blue Zone –– which are, based on the research of Dan Buettner, regions of the world where the population has a significantly longer average life span.
As the leader on policy, Burrows said his goal was to make healthier options more readily accessible to the community, to the point where it becomes second nature.
"What we're trying to do is align people to make healthier choices, and if we can make it easier for them, through policy, creating a downtown that's safer to walk or bike, you don't even think about it. It becomes a healthy option," he said.
One of those policy projects included the announcement of the Ecusta Trail going ahead, which was celebrated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony last Friday.
In terms of dealing with the public, Tammy Hopkins serves as the "people lead" for Blue Zones.
She said while the Blue Zones staff is quite small – three people including herself, Burrows and Sarah Haney (places lead) – community volunteers at the grassroots level take on a large part of the work.
"All the things that are required to become Blue Zones certified take hundreds of people," she said. "So, thank you to everybody in Brevard that has volunteered. A lot of volunteers lead programs for us, such as purpose workshops or cooking classes. Our goal is to teach to the community and then have the community run with it."
After serving more than 2,000 people in its first year – no small feat in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic – both Burrows and Hopkins say they're pleased with how the Blue Zones Project is moving forward and were glad to see such positive community turnout at Saturday's celebration.
"What I love about this organization and the hundreds of volunteers we have, is the gratitude everybody has," Burrows said.
As for the goals moving forward, Hopkins said she wants to keep going with the programs currently in place while expanding options and trying to reach more people outside of Brevard.
"My goal is to extend programs further out in the county to places like Rosman and Balsam Grove and Lake Toxaway. As things start to open up a little more we should be able to get going, so I'm very excited about that and trying to get everybody in the county involved," she said.