New East End wellness center is Positively Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Brenda Hawkins spent 33 years as an instructional assistant with Richmond Public Schools. Now in her retirement, she is finding new life as a student in weekly cooking classes.

“I love them so much that I would stop everything I’m doing just to come here on Wednesdays,” she says,taking a break from chopping a small mountain of broccoli.

Hawkins is whipping up a recipe with neighbors and new friends at Parsley’s Kitchen, one of the programs at the Bon Secours Sarah Garland Jones Center for Healthy Living.

It opened in March to take a proactive approach to wellness.

“I you get to the hospital, you’re already too late,” explains Albert Walker, the Director of Healthy Communities for Bon Secours Richmond Health System. “When you take a public health approach, you have to move upstream to the living conditions of where people live, work and they play.”

Walker says Bon Secours is committed to teaching East End residents how to manage chronic conditions through healthy eating at Parsley’s Kitchen. A community room at the center also hosts educational programs.

Currently, crews are putting finishing touched on the center’s Front Porch Cafe, which will offer job training through the nonprofit Church Hill Activities and Tutoring (CHAT). It is scheduled to open later this summer or by early fall.

“This place is designed to be welcoming place for hope and hospitality,” Walker gestures to the building.

Adds Hawkins, “It’s improving the health of the community if we can get more people to come in.”

Hawkins says the healthy cooking classes she attends each week have already helped her high blood pressure. Now she is determined to pass on what she learns to the next generation.

“Obesity is on the rise in Church Hill,” she observes. “I see it with my own eyes, so if we can incorporate these young people to eat healthier and to go out and move more I think they’ll be okay.”

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