At the request of the new “West Virginia Healthy Bodies Healthy Spirits” network, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared March as “Healthy Bodies Healthy Spirits” Month.

West Virginians from nine denominations will launch a month of statewide healthy church activity March 1 at noon in the Secretary of State’s conference room in Charleston.

“We are all tired of burying people before their time,” said Steve Willis, pastor of Kenova’s First Baptist Church and network board member. “It’s past time for West Virginia churches to take up this mission.”

“If we can get churches on board, we will have a potentially very powerful grassroots movement,” said Jeff Allen, West Virginia Council of Churches executive director. “The faith network gives us a way to connect ‘Try This’ resources with our faith.”

“Our state is plagued with poverty and poor health, but the good news is that change can happen,” said Mark Sliter, Catholic Charities West Virginia director.

“Churches are a powerful social force in our communities and, together, we can change our behaviors and habits by exercising and eating right.” 

“We look forward to working to make this network a success,” said United Methodist Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball. “I am deeply concerned about moving our communities toward more healthy living. This kind of effort is especially important for the children.”

“West Virginia University studies tell us that almost one in four eleven-year-olds already has high blood pressure,” said Rev. Lynn Keener, Morgantown Nazarene pastor, who chairs the network steering committee.

“There are many problems in the world today that we can’t change, but we certainly can do something about this.”

The denominations have joined hands with “Try This West Virginia” (www.trythiswv.com ), a statewide healthy-community program that offers extensive practical resources for healthy community activities and projects.

“We are very happy to join hands with the new faith network,” said Kate Long, co-director of Try This West Virginia. “If churches get actively involved, we have a chance for real change.”

The network launched in October and has since been expanding rapidly. 

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