A group of Putnam County residents, public officials and business leaders is determined to make a difference in the community -- one step at a time.
On Thursday, organizers of a new countywide program called Walking to Wellness met in Greencastle to discuss ideas that they hope will encourage people to get involved in daily exercise. Specifically they hope more people will use the county's many walking trails.
Greencastle resident Joy Marley, a member of the group and president of the city's fitness trail People Pathways, said the group is asking residents to make "small changes" in their daily lives.
"We're not about extreme changes, like running a marathon," Marley told group members who gathered at Big Walnut Sports Park Thursday afternoon.
She said Walking to Wellness has two goals. One is for people to reduce their calorie intake by 100 calories each day and two is to walk 10,000 steps each day.
One of the members of the group, Steve Raines, is currently putting together a new map of Greencastle's People Pathways system. He has calculated the approximate number of footsteps it takes to walk the various trails.
A draft copy of the new map and footstep calculation was reviewed by the group on Thursday, but members don't expect to have it completed until the official launch of the program, possibly later in the year.
One major element of Walking to Wellness is the local business community. Attending last week's meeting were several officials with some of the factories and industries located within Greencastle.
June Pickens works in the human resources department at Crown Equipment and is a big supporter of Walking to Wellness.
She said the company encourages healthy habits for its employees, including a reduction in annual insurance premiums for workers and their spouses who participate in Crown's wellness program. Consequently, the company reports a 95 percent participation rate in the program.
"We're trying to do our part as the company's concerned," Pickens said.
She said she is excited about the opportunity to partner with Walking to Wellness and give employees more opportunities to become physically fit. One of the city's fitness trails runs a few feet from Crown's front door.
"It's amazing how the People Pathways system is growing," she said. "I think it is just such a plus for this community and we as a company are trying to promote it for our employees."
A new face at the Walking to Wellness meeting was Kristi Nelson with Buzzi Unicem of Greencastle.
"It's new to us," she said, however she and another employee who has attended the meetings are heading back to their supervisors to encourage them to get the entire company more involved.
The reasons seem pretty obvious.
Annette Handy, a registered nurse employed at Putnam County Hospital, told group members that today's workers are "eating more and moving less."
An example she gave as to how poor health can affect the community is diabetes. According to statistics, diabetes is one of the country's most prevalent, debilitating, deadly and costly diseases. Nearly 21 million adults and children have the disease today, Handy said, and approximately one-third of them don't even know they have it.
She said estimates are that if the current trend continues, one in three Americans and one in two minorities born in 2000 will develop diabetes in their lifetime.
"Unfortunately, people don't want to make changes just to become healthy," Handy said. "As a corporation, you need to have ways to encourage people to make healthy choices."
Pickens said that many of the traditional junk foods have been removed from vending machines at Crown and employees are being given more healthy choices.
Marley said this all goes back to why People Pathways was first created a little more than a decade ago.
"What we tried to do with the pathway is give people the opportunity to be healthy," Marley said.
She said the organizers of the pathway system have been talking about incorporating some type of wellness program into the working person's day. She emphasized that Walking to Wellness is going to be a program for the entire county.
"What we're trying to do with this is create partnerships with entities within our community," she said. "That's kind of the driving force behind this."