It doesn’t seem like five years have passed to Gwinnett County Outreach Manager Lindsey Jorstad, but that’s exactly how long it’s been since the Live Healthy Gwinnett program was launched.

Established in spring 2014 as a Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation initiative to collaborate with community partners and promote healthier lifestyles to county residents, Live Healthy Gwinnett has hosted 838 events over the last half decade. Those events have ranged from Yoga in the Park sessions to health fairs, Walk and Talk programs, education programs, senior wellness programs, summer camps and an annual glow in the dark run fundraiser.

There is even a “Be Active Gwinnett” truck, which the group takes into communities to give residents a chance to play games and learn how to live a more active lifestyle.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” Jorstad said as she started to choke up while thinking about the five-year anniversary. “It’s gone fast.”

One way Live Healthy Gwinnett measures its impact in the community is the increasing number of people who participate in its programs.

From 2014 through the early part of this year, those programs have been attended by 28,347 participants. County officials said that number does not include 18,500 summer camp participants from 2014 to 2018.

“We’re reaching new communities that we’ve never gone into, or had access to, before,” Jorstad said. “And it’s opened the door to new staff (and) new volunteer activities — especially our student volunteer program.”

The number of people participating has been growing by thousands each year since at least 2016, too. There were 2,641 participants in 2016, and that number grew to 5,757 in 2017.

In 2018, the number exploded, reaching 11,696 participants. So far this year, 4,544 people have participated in Live Healthy Gwinnett programs.

Live Healthy Gwinnett interns Morgan Hess, a health promotion student at the University of Georgia, and Katherine Cook, a public health and promotion student at Georgia Southern University, said working with the program has been an eye-opening experience.

“It’s amazing,” Hess said. “I didn’t realize everything that Live Healthy Gwinnett does for the surrounding community and I’m so happy that I get to be a part of it and see, hands on, all of the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.”

Cook added, “It made me realize how important partnering with other people is because you can come together and create something bigger than what you could do by yourself.”

Beginnings as a health initiativeLive Healthy Gwinnett came into being in 2014 after Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation decided to begin pursuing a goal of promoting health among the county’s residents.

The idea was to get people to visit county parks and highlight preventative measures they could take to avoid problems with their health later in life, Jorstad said.

“We launched the Park Prescription program and I had just begun going around the community and doing presentations, the first being the (Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services’) Health and Wellness Committee,” Jorstad said. “And there, Eastside Medical Center’s previous CEO, Kim Ryan, kind of jumped with us and said ‘I was looking for a program to be on the preventative side and make sure people are coming to the hospital for good reasons’ and making sure her medical professional staff can go outside the hospital settings and educate on what they know best.”

As a result, the partnership of the county’s Park Prescription program and Eastside Medical Center gave birth to Live Healthy Gwinnett.

The organization has established four themes over the years that it promotes to residents: be active; eat healthy; get checked; and be positive.

“A lot of people don’t think about mindset and what stress, and not relieving properly, can do to a body,” Cook said.

Jorstad said building the collaborations, both within county government and with organizations in the community, is one way to describe what Live Healthy Gwinnett has been able to accomplish as well.

“I guess just breaking out of those silos internally for the county, working with an array of departments, and then an array of different partners that we never would have thought about,” she said.

Jorstad pointed to collaborations with Good Measure Meals as an example of partnerships that have benefited the community. Live Healthy Gwinnett partners with local nonprofits on operations and Good Measure Meals provides machines at county facilities to help people in need purchase and pick up meals.

“But then the tradeoff benefit of (Good Measure Meals) coming out and educating participants on meal prep and balanced meals has been really successful,” Jorstad said.

There has also been a community health fair series which Live Healthy Gwinnett partnered with the Daily Post to establish last year. In the first year, four health fairs were held around the county. This year, a fifth health fair, in the Snellville area, has been added.

“A big jump (in event participation in 2018) would be with Gwinnett Daily Post for our community health fairs,” Jorstad said. “Noreen Brantner (director of events for Daily Post parent Southern Community Newspapers Inc.) has been amazing to work with and coming to us and wanting to get down to that community level.”

The healthy living program has also partnered with the Gwinnett Parks Foundation to offer scholarships to help kids in summer camps get free swimming lessons since 2014. It works with the University of Georgia’s Cooperative Extension to provide healthy eating and active lifestyle education as well.

Two years ago, Live Healthy Gwinnett was spun off from the parks department and now exists under the Community Outreach Services banner.

Lots of awards for promoting healthLive Healthy Gwinnett’s work to promote wellness in the county has not gone unnoticed at the local, state and national levels.

The organization has won at least 11 awards over the years from: the National Association of Counties; the National AfterSchool Association; Voices for Georgia’s Children; the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition; and the Gwinnett Chamber.

Taking active lifestyles on the roadA newer effort that Live Healthy Gwinnett has been undertaking to promote health and wellness is the “Be Active Gwinnett” truck. It was launched at the end of last summer and it is essentially a mobile activity resource for the county.

It carries a series of equipment — such as pop-up soccer, hula hoops and gaga ball — that can be set up for a day or so in a particular community and let residents participate in games which get them to be active.

“We’ve seen a huge impact going to schools, housing authorities, apartment complexes, child care facilities (and) newly established neighborhoods that have that internal greenspace set aside,” Jorstad said. “Of course, this summer we’re going to all of our summer feeding sites. We just had our first mobile home community (visit).”

The program’s interns have been particularly involved with the Be Active Gwinnett truck and working with local kids.

“Just seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces when they finally break away from that little shell that they were in — that makes everything so (great),” said Anna Galucki, an intern who studies special education at Georgia Gwinnett College.

What the future holds for Live Healthy GwinnettJorstad said the next big effort that Live Healthy Gwinnett is undertaking is the Harvest Gwinnett community garden program.

The first garden will be located at the Lawrenceville Senior Center at Rhodes Jordan Park in Lawrenceville and will focus on senior citizen food and security. Jorstad said the goal is to have the garden area built and ready for planting by next spring.

“Produce grown here will not only go back our senior centers for their congregate meals and also supplement some home delivery options, but also to partner agencies that we’re beginning to meet with, such as the different co-ops,” Jorstad said.

I'm a Crawford Long baby who grew up in Marietta. I eventually wandered away from home and attended the University of Southern Mississippi, in Hattiesburg, Miss., where I first tried my hand at majoring in film for a couple of years. And then political sc