Exercise is a crucial part of the fight against obesity in Mississippi. But for many, finding a place to exercise is difficult. Challenges finding places to exercise in one’s community is a clear example of a social determinant of health.
Creating a healthy space is one of many reasons why New Horizon Church in Jackson opened The Ark in October. The Ark is in the vein of YMCA: more than just a gym, it’s a place for empowering people through sports and fitness. The Ark also offers a broad spectrum of education about more topics than just health. To help their community get healthy, the Ark provides multiple basketball courts, a climbing wall, spaces for weight training, cardio equipment, and meeting rooms.
As we discussed in early November, exercise is vital not just for preventing diabetes and obesity, but for managing them as well. It also has myriad benefits for other aspects of health, including balance, mobility, and mental health.
But the Ark is about more than just exercise. “Come here and dream again,” is what Dr. Adrianne L. Swinney, Executive Director, said of The Ark. “We want it to be inspiring. Visions do matter.”
Seven years ago, the Ark was a shuttered Sams warehouse that the local community had been trying to find a use for.
As part of that community, New Horizon Ministries was in a good position to help turn the old warehouse into something new and vibrant. Representative Ronnie Crudup, Jr., the Executive Director of New Horizon Ministries, worked with the ministry and the local community so that the ministry could purchase the warehouse, and transform it into the Ark.
The space and the staff currently focus on youth basketball, with three basketball courts and three basketball development specialists under the guidance of Coach Charles Lewis. The coaching team teaches children and keeps them active, instilling values and habits that can help them be healthier and happier for life. They also manage a community basketball league for youth and adults.
We asked Dr. Swinney what she would say to any community that wanted to achieve something similar in their neighborhood. “Start with a vision. Write it down, research it, identify those who want to help make it happen by investing in the vision, and find a location. It doesn’t have to be perfect. You just have to get started. We started with one basketball court.” Dr. Swinney said.
And now there are three, with plans for expansion. They aim to provide more space, more events, and new facilities for different sports that kids might not otherwise be exposed to.
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