The Iowa Healthiest State Initiative announced the winners of the 2021 Healthy Hometown Powered by Wellmark Community Award Feb. 18 during an awards ceremony hosted on its Facebook page. Clarinda was one of seven finalists for the award.
Winners of the Community Award were Cass County, Waterloo and Waverly. Joining Clarinda as the other finalists for the honor were Creston, Dickinson County and Manning. Awards were also presented in nine other categories during ceremonies held earlier in the week.
"It was an honor to be one of the finalists. We still have a lot of work to do. We want to build on the great start we had and continue to make some progress," Clarinda City Manager Gary McClarnon said.
McClarnon is among the community leaders serving on the Clarinda Healthy Hometown Committee. Other members include Elissa Brockman, reedesigns and Taylor Pharmacy; Jessica Erdman and Brandy Powers, Page County Public Health; Greg Jones and Kelli Wilmes, Clarinda Regional Health Center; Beckie Finch, Clarinda Foundation Executive Director; Andrew Hoppmann, Lied Public Library Director; Danielle Briggs, Southwest Iowa Planning Council; Amy McQueen, Clarinda Economic Development Corporation Executive Director; Chris Bergman, Clarinda Community School District Superintendent; Josh Porter, Clarinda High School Assistant Principal and Activities Director; Brian Shotwell, Waubonsie Mental Health Center Executive Director; Carson Riedel, Clarinda Parks and Recreation Director; and Cassie McNees and Elaine Farwell, Clarinda Chamber of Commerce.
Clarinda joined the Healthy Hometown Initiative in June of 2019. The program is intended to improve the livability of a community by inspiring its residents to make healthy decisions in their day-to-day lives.
McClarnon represented the Clarinda committee in a Zoom meeting Thursday afternoon that was recorded for virtual awards ceremony that night. During the meeting each of the seven finalists were introduced and some of their accomplishments were noted.
"One of the communities is focusing on having more handicap accessible sidewalks. We are working on that as well. One of our initial priorities was to have better handicap accessibility," McClarnon said.
In order to evaluate the condition of the sidewalks and intersections in Clarinda, a Walking Audit was organized by McClarnon. A total of 16 people participated in the event including Lori Veach, who uses an electric wheelchair and provided input on ways to improve accessibility, and four students from Clarinda Middle School.
"Two of the most valuable things about the Walking Audit were having the four middle school students and Lori Veach involved. It was great to get the perspective of the students and Lori gave us the perspective of a person in a wheelchair. I consider those very valuable parts of the committee meetings we've had so far," McClarnon said.
In an effort to improve the condition of the sidewalks in Clarinda, new subdivisions are now required to include sidewalks. The city has also invested in a sidewalk matching program where it will share the cost of repairing existing sidewalks or installing new sidewalks with property owners.
"The more sidewalks we can replace, the better off we will be. The committee for the recreational trail is also meeting to discuss the next phase of that project," McClarnon said.
Therefore, McClarnon was confident Clarinda is moving in the right direction in terms of providing local residents with healthy activities and programs.
"We have put quite a bit of work in so far and it has been worthwhile. COVID slowed us down a bit, but we're anxious to have the weather improve so we can get going on our next projects," McClarnon said.