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WVU and CDC announce 2020 community partnerships to encourage healthy living in southern West Virginia

Basket of fresh foods and water bottle for McDowell residents

For nearly two years, a group of passionate West Virginia University faculty and staff have been actively working to support healthy lifestyles in two southern West Virginia counties through a community-based approach – collaborating with residents and local organizations and providing the support they need to promote healthier living in their communities.

In fall 2018, faculty from WVU Extension Service, WVU College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences, and WVU School of Public Health and West Virginia Prevention Research Center entered into a five-year contractual partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and launched the Be Wild, Be Wonderful, Be Healthy project.

Funded by the CDC’s High Obesity Program, Be Wild, Be Wonderful, Be Healthy is a community-based project that aims to create local solutions to our state’s health-related challenges by supporting projects in Clay and McDowell counties that increase access to physical activity and healthy foods. Since its launch, the Be Healthy project has worked to creatively engage and support these communities and their key organizations, and to build on the successes they’ve already experienced.

This year, 12 organizations across the two counties have been awarded funding through contractual partnerships with the Be Healthy leadership team to back projects that are focused on improving access to healthy foods and physical activity.

Last spring, 18 community organizations were selected to receive funding with the same goal in mind. In fact, many of the project partners for this year are expanding on projects they were able to complete with the funds they received last year. These partnerships allow the project to expand its reach, gain a deeper connection to the communities and create sustainability.

New to the list of funded projects for this year are connectivity plans for each county, which are collaborations between local governments, community organizations, businesses and nonprofits that will help connect communities within each county and increase opportunities for physical activity in those areas.

“These community organizations in Clay and McDowell counties have come up with such unique ways to create opportunities for their residents to be more active and make healthier food choices. We’re looking forward to seeing the outcomes of these projects and building on the momentum from last year’s partnerships,” said Kerry Gabbert, project coordinator for Be Wild, Be Wonderful, Be Healthy. “Each community has its own set of challenges, and during times like this, it’s especially important to make sure we’re helping these communities overcome those challenges and improve their access to healthy foods and physical activity.”

The organizations and projects in Clay County that have been awarded funding include Clay County Business Development Authority; Clay County Board of Health; Clay Parks and Recreation Commission; Deliciously Vivid, Inc.; Risen Lord Catholic Church; and the downtown Clay connectivity plan.

In McDowell County, the partners and projects receiving funds consist of the City of Welch; Coalfield Community Action Group; Kiwanis Club of War; McDowell County Commission on Aging; Reconnecting McDowell; and the McDowell County connectivity plan.

Throughout the project, the WVU Extension Service agents in each county have been working closely with the team to help bridge gaps and connect with the right people in each of the communities.

“We have amazing people in our counties who have come up with some incredibly innovative and fun ways to get people moving and make sure we all have access to healthy foods,” said Ami Cook, WVU Extension Service agent in Clay County. “I’m so excited to continue working with our returning partners, as well as our new partners, to help shape a healthier future for our community.”

To keep up with the Be Wild, Be Wonderful, Be Healthy project, follow @behealthywv on Facebook and Instagram, or visit the webpage The project team encourages everyone to use #BeHealthyWV to interact and connect with others involved in the project on social media.



CONTACT: Hannah Booth
Communications Specialist
WVU Extension Service