Be Your Best has been partners with Live Healthy Lane since the first Community Health Assessment (CHA) was conducted in 2015. Their work directly aligns with the priorities outlined in the 2021-25 Community Health Improvement Plan (CHP):
Be Your Best brings together community partners based in Cottage Grove, OR. The group works to improve family and community health by using a Collective Impact model to work with community partners and those most impacted by health inequities to guide their efforts.
The group’s partners include:
How did you get involved with Be Your Best and community organizing in Cottage Grove?
“In 2014, when I was teaching fitness classes and working in the office at Anytime Fitness, I noticed that we were starting to get a lot of folks coming in whose Medicare Advantage plans were paying for their gym memberships. For many, this was their first gym experience, other than occasional physical therapy or other rehab protocols. People were coming in on the advice of a doctor or physical therapist, but without any real direction. They were given a tour and a fitness consultation upon joining, but beyond that unless they signed up for classes or personal training, there was not a lot of progress. Working with people in the fitness environment, you start to understand how vulnerable people are when they come in. People want to be strong and healthy, and it can be hard for people to know how to do that if it hasn’t been a consistent part of their life.
We also got requests for childcare and classes for kids. It became clear to me that our community needs more access to indoor recreational space with programs and classes for all ages. Our community center was offering some low impact classes and yoga but having a fully staffed recreation center would be a huge benefit for the South Lane region.
I heard about Be Your Best and the collaborative work they were doing, and went to a meeting. The group was working with Live Healthy Lane on the South Lane alignment of the current CHP. There were all these different people at the table doing different things related to the CHP and the CHP goals, and I thought ‘wow, this is really cool, all different agencies and organizations working on community health initiatives, but nobody’s talking about fitness.’ I continued attending meetings because I was interested in what was happening, but I didn’t know anything about Social Determinants of Health or Collective Impact. I figured it was a good place to start to get the ball rolling for a community recreation program. Eventually I took on the role of meeting minutes and email coordination. When COVID hit and we started moving into the current CHA/CHP cycle, we received grant funding to support more administrative work, which is how I landed in the coordinator role, and here I am.”
Why is this work important to you?
“I think it’s just one of those situations where the more you see what needs to be done, the more you get pulled into it. Being in more of a directive role for Be Your Best, I have seen how much is truly happening in this community. It’s been a steady group meeting for years, and the collective work is really starting to come together in ways which foundations are starting to recognize as more impactful. In early 2020, we had just focused on getting the South Lane community health clinic project, but when COVID hit, we had to shift gears and decided to look at crisis response and how we could help create a safety net for our service agencies to make sure that they were fully supported in helping folks who were being impacted by Covid-19 and Covid-19 fallout. The pandemic forced us to look at the gaps and barriers to community supports, and to work on bringing individuals, agencies, and larger entities together on projects to hold up the entire community. Facilitating support and communication between folks is what makes me feel like this is important. Hopefully the message is getting out there that this is the kind of impact that needs to happen in order to support everybody in the community.”
What do you think your community’s greatest strengths are?
“South Lane has set the goal post for how rural communities can come up with creative, local supports for people who are facing barriers to services. Many things have started here out of necessity and have proven to work well, including South Lane Mental Health and Peggy’s Primary Connection. The support that the agencies have for each other is strong, and we have been fortunate to have some very forward-thinking people who recognize the need and are able to pull things together to make that work. There’s a strong community here, and in many ways the pandemic has brought us closer together. There has been some great momentum around housing, behavior health and crisis response, childcare, and food security. The last two years have been a total mess in a lot of ways, but I think coming out of that we’ll just hopefully get better and stronger.”
How do you see the work of Be Your Best and the Cottage Grove community growing in the future?
“I’ve been very encouraged by the conversations I’ve been having in different areas. Things are really starting to move in terms of getting support for the unhoused population here; the city is working with community organizations to put some time and energy and money into finding proactive solutions. Similarly with childcare; Jackie Lester (another Be Your Best member) has been having some really great conversations with the school district around supporting childcare in this community, and bringing in other community organizations like 90 by 30 and the Early Learning Alliance to discuss how we can bring in support to train and staff more childcare providers and find space for childcare centers. I’ve had great conversations with the city, the school district, South Valley Athletics (a local recreation league) about working together to build momentum for community recreation. All of these conversations that have been happening in different corners of the community are now coming to the front, we’re talking about where the needs are, where the gaps are, and how the community can become aware of these things and support the work that’s being done. That’s where I see the work growing. Be Your Best is also moving toward a 501(C)3, and it would be great to serve in a role of facilitating collective impact in the community as long as we are needed.”
What is bringing you joy at the moment?
“I’m in a good place right now; I’m healthy, my family is healthy, my friends are healthy. What brings me joy is taking time to recognize the good things that are happening and push that energy out into the rest of the world. It’s really easy to focus on the negative right now, but that’s counterproductive, so I just try to stay positive as much as possible.”
For more information about Be Your Best or to get involved visit their facebook page or contact Samantha -firstname.lastname@example.org