The Latino community was invited to spend the afternoon at the Emma B. Howe Family YMCA, Coon Rapids, Sunday.
The occasion was a Latino Festival, a free event hosted by the YMCA in collaboration with Clues (Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio) with participation by a number of health organizations including Allina Health, Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance, St. Mary’s Health Clinics, Lupus Foundation of Minnesota and the Minnesota Stroke Association.
Information was provided on nutrition, physical activity and disease prevention, while health screenings and flu shots were offered.
In addition, there were water and bike safety classes, a Zumba class and bicycle raffle, as well as bike helmet and pedometer giveaways.
And for the children, there were games in the YMCA gymnasium, including a chance to navigate the large climbing wall along the back wall of the gym.
According to Chad Lanners, Emma B. Howe Family YMCA vice president, the idea for the festival came from YMCA board member Craig Malm of Allina Health and meetings followed involving Lanners, Malm and Cesar Orjuela from Clues, a Twin Cities organization whose mission is to enhance the quality of life of the Latino community in Minnesota.
The event was a good fit for the outreach efforts of the Emma B. Howe Family YMCA and to provide community resources for the Latino community, Lanners said.
The Latino population in the Twin Cities is much larger than people realize, Malm said.
According to Orjuela, Clues is the leading provider of behavioral and human services to the Latino community, including core mental health, chemical health, aging well, family, economic advancement and community health worker.
“We work with the Latino community on many programs,” Orjuela said.
“The YMCA is a very important institution in the community and has many resources for the Latino population.”
The Latino population in the Twin Cities numbers about 100,000 people, Orjuela said.
Tables for resource agencies were set up in one half of the YMCA gymnasium – the other half was set aside for children’s activities.
Coon Rapids Community Policing Officer Des Toninato was at one table, providing information on child and family safety.
“This is one of the funnest things I do in this job,” Toninato said.
At another resource table was Beatrice Martinez, representing both the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance and the Minnesota Stroke Association.
She emphasized the importance of both children and adults wearing bike helmets, while Allina paramedics were fitting bike helmets which were provided free of charge.
According to Martinez, she spoke to people and provided materials about living a healthy lifestyle as well as wearing bike helmets, a combination of both messages.
Another room in the YMCA was set aside for health screenings by Allina Health personnel – blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels and BMI (body mass index).
According to Jodi Hall, a registered nurse at Mercy Hospital, the results of these screenings were discussed with the person and they were told to see a doctor if necessary.
And if a health issue of an emergency nature was revealed, personnel were on site to deal with it, Hall said.
Visitors could also learn about the YMCA’s own diabetes prevention program from Shanna McCann, a lifestyle coach in the program.
Participants in the program, who don’t have to be YMCA members, learn lifestyle changes through nutrition and physical activity.
According to McCann, the YMCA’s diabetes prevention program helps those at risk of developing type 2 diabetes adopt healthy lifestyles by eating healthier, increasing physical activity and losing a modest amount of weight to reduce their chances of developing the disease.
Lanners was pleased with the response to the festival.
“We had a pretty nice turn out,” Lanners said. “It was exciting to do this.”
Peter Bodley is at [email protected]