Emily Thibault joined the Community Building & Engagement team at Way Finders in 2019, during her year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA. Emily is passionate about building healthy communities and working with resident leaders to drive and sustain positive change. Emily manages the Resident Health Advocates program and the successful Let’s Get Fit Older Adult Chair Aerobics program.
Anna Cruz has been with Way Finders since 2015. As a Community Engagement Coordinator, she provides leadership and assistance to residents and resident-led organizations in targeted Holyoke neighborhoods. She also coordinates the Chestnut Community Alliance, a resident-led group working to address issues of public safety and crime.
The Chestnut Community Alliance (CCA) is an active coalition of residents, joined by community providers and civic leaders, working together to make their neighborhood safe and healthy. CCA residents live in, or have ties to, the two neighborhoods surrounding the Holyoke Public Library and Library Commons, the Way Finders affordable housing development.
A more just planet and a better future for all—including communities of color, where the health of residents is often disproportionately affected by environmental hazards and climate impacts? Getting there calls for shifts in policies, systems, and practices that will have a lasting impact on climate, air quality, health, and racial equity.
Established in 2017, our small—but mighty!—cohort of five Resident Health Advocates leads the way in inspiring our community advocacy efforts.
Leading with passion, uniting with purpose
Way Finders Resident Health Advocates serve as both ambassadors of the Community Building and Engagement team and leaders of the Community Advocates and the broader community. In return for a commitment to volunteer a set number of hours (the goal is 45 hours a quarter), Resident Health Advocates receive a quarterly stipend.
The digital realm today is the gateway to so many essentials: health care, education, housing opportunities, social networks with friends and family, civic life, and entertainment—all of which can boost health and well-being. This was true before the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020. Now it’s a glaring truth and a growing inequity for the many people who are shut out.
What makes the difference between a “no” and a “maybe” in terms of getting residents involved in community building work? Between watching from the outside or joining the group? Between seeing a challenge as insurmountable or as something to take on with vigor? Between feeling at a loss (“What can I do?”) or feeling empowered (“Let’s do this!”)?
Our chair aerobics fitness class is a fun, accessible meeting point for older adults who are interested in improving their own health and that of their community! Free and open to Springfield residents of any age and ability, the class is held twice a week (currently via Zoom): Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 to 11:30 am.