Friday, October 24, 2014

CATCH Champions: Inese Alvarez and RSVP of Summit County

Inese w/ CATCH Program Assistant Hillary
Inese Alvarez is the Director of the Mature Services RSVP Volunteer Program of Summit and Medina Counties in Ohio. She has many responsibilities for RSVP, but one of her favorites is getting to help implement CATCH programming for children in the community every summer.

Funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service, RSVP is one of the largest volunteer networks in the nation for people 55 and over. In Summit County, RSVP volunteers provide service and support to a variety of nonprofit organizations addressing important issue areas such as helping seniors remain independent in their own homes, tutoring and mentoring programs and health and wellness promotion programs. One health promotion program that has caught on big with the RSVP Volunteers is the CATCH program. RSVP volunteers and University of Akron students have teamed up to bring the CATCH program to a variety of locations in the Akron, Ohio area.

This past summer, a team of 8 RSVP volunteers and university students presented the CATCH lessons surrounding a summertime lunch program at an Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority property. After noticing that bored kids would line up an hour early just to get their lunch, the volunteers arranged to lead children in physical activity for 45 minutes before lunchtime. After lunch, children stayed around to learn lessons about healthy nutrition and prepare some healthy snacks to take home.

While the children involved were initially skeptical of the extra class time after lunch, Inese says, “They ended up having a lot of fun with it, and they totally got it!”

Thirty youth attended 8 sessions in July and August. A $4,000 grant from United Way of Summit County helped provide the food, training and take home materials as well as provide gas cards for the volunteers.

In the summer of 2013, RSVP volunteers served 95 children at two different sites, one a summer camp program at Emmanuel Christian School, and the other at an AMHA property. The entire program has been volunteer driven and intergenerational.

Inese learned about the CATCH program while seeking evidence-based health programs to improve the healthy futures of children in her community.

“I’ve been very passionate about this program,” Inese said. “It’s a wonderful curriculum; I can see the kids responding to it. There’s one little boy in a program we’re conducting right now at one of our community centers, who was in the program at Emmanuel Christian School two summers ago. He remembers Go, Slow and Whoa foods, and is always raising his hand to answer questions. You can see that the kids are retaining concepts even after a short period of time, and they’re having fun with it.”

Thanks to Inese and RSVP, CATCH is really taking root in the Akron area. RSVP is partnering with other CATCH champions such as the Akron YMCA to bring CATCH programming to even more children in the future.

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