GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOTV)- Thanks to a grant of $16,055 from AARP as well as contributors from the City of Grand Rapids, Conceptual Site Forms, and individuals, the North End Wellness Coalition (NEWC) in partnership with the North Quarter Corridor Improvement Authority was able to procure and install benches along a local urban trail, the North Quarter Pathways, in the Creston neighborhood.

The benches will help persons of all abilities to walk and socialize with their neighbors.  The importance of walking has been elevated during the time of COVID-19 as participation in indoor activities is attendant with increased risk of virus transmission.  Walking is known to promote brain health, improve mood, lower the risk of cancer, strengthen our hearts, help dodge diabetes, reduce the pain of arthritic knees, and assist in weight loss.

NEWC member, Catherine’s Health Center, suggested a bench for each of the loops of the North Quarter Pathways so that the Pathways could serve all residents, including those with limited mobility.

Additionally, the benches serve as a beacon for residents to get out, walk, and socialize.  The benches are a great place for neighbors to interact with one another.  Socializing provides a boost to our sense of well-being and belonging.  To that end, all of the benches promote health by encouraging users to talk with neighbors and enjoy the moment.  Each bench sports a plaque with a motivating message as well as acknowledging AARP and NEWC’s contributions. 

The grant from AARP is from the national organization and is the first to be awarded in West Michigan.  AARP has long worked with the City of Grand Rapids on fostering its development as an Age Friendly community as defined by the World Health Organization.  The addition of benches to the community align tightly with the City’s Age Friendly goal of enhancing accessible, accommodating outdoor spaces.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony on October 13 will recognize the successful collaboration of multiple partners in the project, including AARP, North End Wellness Coalition, North Quarter Corridor Improvement Authority, multiple Grand Rapids City departments, and Conceptual Site Furnishings.  Mayor Rosalyn Bliss will be the featured guest, along with Jennifer Feuerstein, Associate State Director of AARP.

This project recognizes that social problems, like the health of a population, need to be addressed as a system.  And it shines a light on the power of collaboration.  Once again, we are better together, than alone.

(Information provided by the North End Well Coalition).