Outreach in Action

Stockbridge area benefits from 5HF, SAWC, and Outreach collaboration

by Jo Mayer and Paul Crandall

Involved in everything from trails and trikes to Tide Me Over bags, snack banks, cooking classes, playground construction and more, the 5 Healthy Towns Foundation (5HF) has had a profound effect in our area.

First incorporated as the Chelsea Area Wellness Foundation, 5HF is a tax-exempt, private foundation governed by a volunteer board. The board represents populations of the Chelsea, Dexter, Grass Lake, Manchester and Stockbridge school districts.

The 5HF quest: help folks in our area Eat Better, Move More, Avoid Unhealthy Substances, and Connect with Others in Healthy Ways. In this pursuit, they have worked with established groups and helped to create new ones.

Several successful 5HF collaborations have involved Stockbridge Community Outreach working with the 5HF-affiliated Stockbridge Area Wellness Coalition (SAWC). One example:  Outreach’s Tide Me Over backpack program – our first joint effort. In spring 2009, Outreach launched a pilot program supplying students on the free school-lunch program with backpacks of food to “tide them over” the weekend. 5HF stepped up with funding in fall 2011, along with Crossroads Community Church, to help Outreach expand the program.  We currently serve nearly 90 students each week, in Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade, during the school year.

Another joint effort: our cooking class, which started in fall 2016 under the tutelage of Suzi Greenway. The class is now taught each fall by Jackie Scheller at the Back Street Hall & Event Center. Participants get tips and tricks for easy, healthy food preparation, how to shop economically, as well as hands-on experience cooking meals together. Participants take home leftovers to enjoy and share.

In fall 2021, Outreach heard from school personnel about students in need of snacks to fuel them through the school day and teachers who were tapping their own limited funds to supply them. SAWC/5HF responded, offering a sponsorship used to create snack banks in each school. That program continues now with additional funding from the Stockbridge Lions Club and others.

The 5HF-Wellness Coalition partnership has also accomplished the following:

  • Sponsored the construction/updating of 5 playgrounds (two in Unadilla Township, one in Munith, and two in Stockbridge).
  • Helped fund the building of the greenhouse and pavilion at Heritage School.
  • Paid for the refurbishment of the volleyball court at Veteran’s Park.
  • Paid for upgrading and continued maintenance of school-based trails.
  • Helped establish and continued its support of the Open Air Market of Stockbridge.
  • Collaborated to establish SRSLY Stockbridge.
  • Launched an informative, free magazine – Connected — which is mailed out twice a year to the entire five-town service area.

Perhaps the most consequential 5HF effort in Stockbridge is the construction and continued support of the Stockbridge Area Wellness Center — celebrating its 10th year — located in Lantis Plaza of Stockbridge.

Between these and other programs over the years, 5HF has invested close to $1 million into the greater Stockbridge area!


Having such a helpful partner is a blessing to Stockbridge Community Outreach, and collaboration is convenient with SAWC and Outreach both operating from the same building, the Stockbridge Activity Center.

SAWC meets every other month to discuss community needs and oversee funding to help improve wellness in the Stockbridge Community School District. The next meeting is March 21 at 4:30pm in Room 108 of the Stockbridge Activity Center. For more information, please email Lori@5healthytowns.org or check out the website at www.5healthytowns.org.

Playground behind SAC, off Cherry St., is accessible and suited for ages 2 – 12. Photo credit: Jo Mayer.

5 Healthy Towns Foundation mission: Cultivate improvements in personal and community wellness with events like this Trike Race in September 2013. Pictured from left, Brian Johnson, Susan Lockhart, and Paul Crandall. Photo provided by Jo Mayer.

SAWC/5HF provided the funds for building the Unadilla Township Playscape. Photo credit: Jo Mayer.

This column is sponsored by Stockbridge Community Outreach, our local food pantry, crisis, and referral center located in the Stockbridge Activity Center (old middle school) near Cherry and Elm Streets in Stockbridge. Office hours are 1-3pm, Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and by appointment.

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