by ALEXANDRA RETTER
On the doorstep sits a kit. Inside, a magazine and activities centered on health and wellness are bundled. The kit is part of the Bridges-To-Go initiative, which aims to support the overall health of families amid the pandemic by bringing wellness tools directly to their homes.
“Anything we can do to mitigate some of the stress that families are experiencing right now with school being distanced, learning being distanced and family stress levels up … is part of what we want to do at Bridges,” Winona State University (WSU) Assistant Professor of Nursing and Bridges Health Coordinator Jennifer Timm shared.
An interdisciplinary group of WSU students from the fields of nursing, social work and public health design the free, monthly kits. Each kit comes with a magazine, which is also created by students. The magazine has a theme, such as immune health or health during the holidays, and includes descriptions of the items in the kit. The magazine is also designed to be engaging and colorful so children will want to get involved with learning about health and wellness, Timm said.
Kits have featured items like varieties of tea, children’s books, coloring sheets, crayons, fruit snacks, masks and cards with yoga poses.
“It’s trying to pull from a holistic health viewpoint, addressing mental health, physical health and creativity for families,” said WSU nursing student Bailey Almich, who helped start the initiative.
Students drop a kit off right at the front door of each family who requests one to keep community members safe.
“The goal was, when the box arrives at the doorstep, there’s a feeling of excitement and joy,” Timm shared.
Almich said it was empowering as a student to be on a team completing community outreach.
“When we went into the community, we were very conscious of all the guidelines and regulations, but it was a feeling of connectedness we did get when doing this for families,” Almich noted.
Almich added that it was meaningful to physically be in the community while delivering the kits.
The initiative arose from Bridges Health, a WSU program through which a team of faculty members and students have provided free preventive health services and health education to children and adults at locations like the Friendship Center and Winona Volunteer Services. The families receiving the kits currently are new to Bridges Health, Timm said, adding, “It is really exciting for us, because it’s just expanding your reach.”
Families were surveyed about what kind of health and wellness information they would like to receive and whether they would want to receive a kit. Those who subscribed were then surveyed again to determine whether they would like to receive a kit the next month.
Various community stakeholders, such as the Winona Community Foundation (WCF), have supported the program. A WCF grant helped fund it.
As program organizers consider the initiative’s future, they are thinking about expanding the operation to include kits for older adults who are living alone.
“It’s preparing students to be advocates, particularly during times like this,” Timm noted. “Advocating for communities and at-risk … groups — that’s what community work is all about.”
More information about the Bridges-To-Go kits and the virtual services Bridges Health is offering during the pandemic may be found at https://www.bridgeshealthwinona.org.