LiveWell Lawrence coalition to celebrate 9 years in action

A bicyclist uses the Lawrence Loop, a paved trail that nearly circles Lawrence and provides a safe and scenic way for residents to be active. The LiveWell Lawrence coalition has advocated for completing the Lawrence Loop and promoting its use, and its efforts have spearheaded a nonprofit called Friends of Lawrence Area Trails, which will be introduced at a Celebration Breakfast on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017.

Since its inception nine years ago, LiveWell Lawrence, a coalition of more than 150 community members who are working to create communities where everyone can thrive, has centered its work on healthy eating, active living and tobacco-free lifestyles.

“I believe we can make a greater impact when we band together, and LiveWell does just that,” said Elizabeth Keever, LiveWell Lawrence chair. “We are a coalition of committed people who bring a broad range of skills, talents and passions to the table. During the past nine years, we have made some incredible progress.”

To celebrate that progress, LiveWell Lawrence is hosting a Celebration Breakfast, which is free and open to the public, from 7:30-8:45 a.m. Friday, Dec. 1, at the Lied Center of Kansas Pavilion, 1600 Stewart Drive.

Since its inception, the coalition has received more than $2 million in grant funding to support the work of LiveWell and its partner agencies. The funding has been instrumental in implementing numerous projects including Safe Routes to Schools, school and community gardens, trail development, a Double Up Food Bucks program at farmers markets for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients, adoption of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation framework in Lawrence public schools, a clean indoor air policy in Eudora, healthier vending options in public places including county buildings and Lawrence Parks and Recreation facilities, and tobacco-free parks policies in Lawrence, Eudora and Lecompton.

“We are working to create conditions in our community that support people’s efforts to live a higher quality of life,” said Laurie Comstock, a LiveWell Lawrence past chair. “We want to eliminate some of those barriers that are keeping them from being well.”

During the breakfast, the LiveWell Lawrence coalition will recognize these individuals and organizations with Culture of Health Action Awards:

Coming up next year

In 2018, LiveWell Lawrence will focus on at least three major initiatives, including:

• Supporting development of the new five-year Douglas County Community Health Plan

• Developing and launching a health equity plan, part of a three-year Kansas Health Foundation-funded effort to improve health equity by engaging impacted residents in LiveWell Lawrence’s discussions and decision-making

• Examining the coalition mission and structure to strategically support its work in the community

To learn more about the coalition, visit or call the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department at 785-843-3060.

Kim Richter — Richter, a Lecompton resident, works in the KU School of Medicine’s Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health and helps support the development of tobacco treatment specialists. She has offered numerous trainings to health care professionals in Douglas County, including a recent training for Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center staff. She was a key organizer of community residents whose efforts ultimately led to passage of a tobacco-free parks policy in Lecompton in September.

Lisa Larsen — Larsen, a member of the Lawrence City Commission, is a strong proponent of creating a healthy-built environment for the community through planning, leadership and data-based decision-making. She played a critical role in development of the Lawrence Parks and Recreation master plan update and has been engaged in the Douglas County Community Health planning process. Larsen often attends community events and meetings that promote improvements to infrastructure, and “walks the talk” by riding her electric bicycle.

KU Endowment Wellness Team — Laurie Comstock has been instrumental in advancing wellness at the KU Endowment Association, where a wellness program called “Building a Greater yoU” started in 2007. Since then, the association’s approximately 167 full-time staff members have shown measurable physical health improvements. There have been several years with no or little increase in their health insurance premiums. KU Endowment’s initiatives have included: installing exercise equipment, maintaining an employee garden, implementing smoke-free grounds and an employee food and beverage policy, providing four weeks of paid parental leave, and adding sidewalks to promote walking. KU Endowment also has provided Mental Health First Aid training to about 50 employees. KU Endowment has served as a go-to resource for workplace wellness. Other members of the wellness team include Jill Mignacca, Lori Blaylock, Liz Greer, Kevin Kelly, Teresa Mock, Bridget Murphy, Stacy Nuss, Kathy Sanders, Whitney Schieber, Michelle Tevis and Brandon Woodard.

Just Food — Just Food, a Douglas County food pantry, has been instrumental in creating opportunities for residents to access healthy foods, which is one of the priorities in the 2013-2018 Douglas County Community Health Plan. These opportunities include stocking more fresh produce at the pantry, implementing a choice-based system, recovering more nutritious foods from grocery stores and restaurants, purchasing a refrigerated truck and offering cooking classes. Just Food and its clients often volunteer to participate in surveys and pilot programs to help with research and data collection in the community.

Chris Lempa — Lempa has been working with youth for more than a decade as coordinator of the Full Circle Youth Program at the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority. Under his guidance, the program expanded into a yearlong out-of-school program that provides a free, safe and structured environment for youth, ages 7-18, to socialize and learn. Lempa has designed national award-winning programs such as the Full Circle Wrenching Crew, implemented a free summer family dinner program and brought an overall mindset of wellness to his work. Outside of work, Lempa volunteered for community organizations such as the Sunrise Project and the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association. Lempa recently moved to Chicago, but the impact he has made on the Douglas County community and its youth will remain into the future.

On Friday, the Douglas County Community Foundation will award a total of $80,240 in LiveWell Community Wellness grants to:

City of Lawrence Parks and Recreation, for signage along trails that make up the Lawrence Loop.

Douglas County Housing Inc., to provide fitness programming for older adults.

Eudora Schools Foundation, to construct an Outdoor Wellness and Learning Center at Eudora Middle School.

Friends of Lawrence Area Trails, to help launch a nonprofit that will raise funds and advocate for a vibrant local trails system.

K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, to lead a healthy corner store initiative to increase access to healthy foods in food deserts.

Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, to work on improving safe routes to schools in the Pinckney School and Old West Lawrence areas.

The Lawrence Public Library Foundation, to provide a garden seed library that will distribute thousands of seed packets in Douglas County.

Lawrence Public Schools, to do a variety of work through three grants. Liberty Memorial Central Middle School will receive support for its Smart Strength after-school fitness and health program. The school district will receive funding for a bicycle fleet for high school physical education, indoor bike trainers and accessories for an adapted PE triathlon. It also will receive funding for expansion of school gardens.

“The coalition started as a small group of people sitting around the table with lots of goals and hopes and dreams,” said Marilyn Hull, of the Douglas County Community Foundation, who is founder of LiveWell Lawrence. “And now, there are at least 150 people involved, working in nearly every sector, to improve access to healthy foods, physical activity and tobacco-free living. I’m happy with where we are now, but I also look and see so much more to be done.”

— Karrey Britt is communications coordinator for the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department.