Foot Power!

Published 10:27 am Thursday, July 14, 2016

AHOSKIE – When residents of the Ahoskie Housing Authority (AHA) met with Executive Director Tyrone Lindsey about addressing their quality of life issues, they stated a lack of amenities for exercising.

Rather than propose more recreational facilities like basketball goals or workout rooms at the town’s Jernigan Swamp and First Street public housing complexes, Lindsey came up with the idea of a walkathon.

Residents were invited to walk two times around a circuitous route at the Jernigan Swamp complex twice weekly in the afternoon to promote wellness, prevent illness, and manage chronic disease, which Lindsey hopes will lead to better personal care, nutrition, and physical activity.

“I told them before we could take those giant steps, we needed to begin with baby steps,” Lindsey said. “So we came up with this idea of just walking and frame it as a health initiative.”

Lindsey said the walks – roughly one mile – will accomplish multiple objectives.

“We hope to get people to lose weight,” he mentions. “They can track how much they weigh when we begin, and how much they will weigh when we end.”

After a July 7 kickoff event that featured Housing Authority Board chairman Andre Lassiter, and representatives of the town’s Fire and Police departments, a ribbon-cutting was held to begin the first of what they hope are many such treks. Then about a dozen first-time walkers splashed on their sunscreen, slurped down a swallow of cool water for the 90-plus degree heat and began to hike.

“We also think we can make this a more vibrant community where people are more intimate,” Lindsey added. “We feel walking will allow more people to engage with each other.”

Dialogue, the director believes, will also lead to other altruistic goals the residents can set.

“Another objective is that this will empower people to take back their communities from the clandestine activities for the drug dealers because when you’re out there in the community you’re much more visible; and maybe this will deter some of those (illicit) activities,” Lindsey reasoned.

The director’s idea managed to catch the ear of several of the heads of some of the town services, like the EMS, Fire and Police departments.

“We also want to just create better relationships with the community at large,” Lindsey said. “(Ahoskie Police) Chief Fitzhugh had mentioned ‘Walk-with-a-Cop’ to build relationships with the police department.”

“We want to really just use this as a platform in order to reach bigger goals in the future, and allow residents to take more responsibility for their health,” he conceded.

“We want to get folks away from the idea that public housing residents don’t care about anything,” Lindsey added, “and this is just an effort to show that they do care about issues that affect their quality of life. They just need somebody to lead them and give them hope, because if you give them hope, create an opportunity for them to walk through that door, while some will and some won’t, it at least provides that first forward step.”