Berlin’s New Designation Could Leads To Grant Money

BERLIN – A new designation is expected to allow Berlin to pursue grants aimed at improving the health of the town’s citizens and visitors.

The town recently partnered with the Institute for Public Health Innovation to become a HEAL — Healthy Eating Active Living — community. As a member of the HEAL campaign, Berlin will have access to a variety of programs and grants.

“I’m very excited Berlin has been designated a HEAL city,” Councilmember Lisa Hall said. “It’s a good fit for Berlin. It goes hand in hand with walkable, bikeable Berlin.”

Through participation in HEAL Cities and Towns for the Mid-Atlantic, the town will have access to training and support that promotes healthy living. Berlin will also be able to apply for funding from HEAL’s $40,000 grant pool.

“Berlin recognizes the need to serve our citizens in unique and diverse ways and to provide the highest quality of life possible,” Mayor Gee Williams said. “By becoming a HEAL community we hope to incorporate healthy eating and encourage active lifestyles into our projects and planning. We are excited to provide this benefit to our citizens and look forward to working with the HEAL initiative to maximize the free resources that they offer toward this initiative.”

Following adoption of the resolution declaring the town’s commitment to the cause, staff submitted an application for a HEAL implementation grant, which could be as much as $9,000.

“We have high hopes for this,” said Mary Bohlen, Berlin’s administrative services director.

She said the grant would be used to start a food program in cooperation with the Worcester County Health Department that would give area children the chance to tour retail and restaurant establishments to learn skills like reading food labels and menus. Bohlen said the town was also going to start setting up walking groups for residents to take part in.

“Moms with strollers,” she said. “People with dogs. Whatever throws people together and has them out walking.”

A HEAL grant would also enable the town to purchase bike racks, according to Bohlen. One would be placed downtown and one would be placed in each of the parks. Two of the racks, Bohlen added, would include built in fix-it stations.

“These are stations that have tools on cords that people can use to make adjustments to their bikes, pump air in a flat tire, that kind of thing,” Bohlen said.

While the grants do require an equal match from the town, Bohlen said the town’s portion did not have to be monetary.

“This is a 50-50 grant however the town’s 50 percent does not necessarily have to be cash. It can be in-kind,” Bohlen said.

HEAL officials said they were looking forward to working with the town.

“At the Institute for Public Health Innovation we know that creating policies that address healthy living at a local level is critical to addressing the personal, collective and economic impact of obesity in our region,” said Marisa Jones, director of HEAL Cities and Towns for the Mid-Atlantic in a news release. “We’re confident that we can make great headway by partnering with Berlin officials to benefit the lives of Berlin residents and employees.”