Monette Housing takes first in state

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Town Crier News Staff

The Arkansas Chapter of National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials presented Monette Housing Authority the state's first place award of "Agency of the Year" among small agencies for their health and safety programs titled "A whole lot of shaking going on."

MHA Executive Director Barbara Suber accepted the prestigious award at the annual fall meeting held in Eureka Springs in September. Agencies are only eligible to win the "Agency of the Year" award once in a 10 year period, and the MHA won exactly 10 years ago, in September 1996.

MHA chose "A whole lot of shakin' going on" theme to merge two emphasis areas involving movement. The first program included equipping the 48 residents with a basic earthquake and disaster preparedness emergency survival kit.

Emergency kit items contained in the plastic carrying case include flash light, batteries, can opener, handi- wipes, gallon of water, and first aide kit. A laminated information sheet is included recommending other items that the resident can add to the kit.

"Living in the New Madrid earthquake zone is unique in itself," said Suber. "Unless you have experienced the movement and sounds of an earthquake, you cannot appreciate how vulnerable the residents of Buffalo Island are and how unprepared we would be to face another disaster. Necessity and awareness were the first steps to action. We have partnered with the Buffalo Island West Elementary campus for the past 15 years with our many on going community service projects."

The second program involves exercise and physical fitness. Specialized equipment, fitness instruction and videos were placed in the MHA community room. The exercise program is open to the whole community during three sessions a week.

"Arkansas has become a lead state in health awareness," said Suber. "Opportunities for indoor exercise in rural Arkansas are limited or, as in our case, non-existent. The nearest gyms, arobics and fitness classes in our area are at least 25 miles away and very expensive. The MHA had become concerned abut the sedentary lifestyles of so many of our seniors and knew we had to do something. At first we offered armchair fitness, performed in a seated position, as a preventative measure to maintain maximum mobility and strength. As the interest grew we added more types of equipment."

"Louder than the exercise music, most days, is the conversation and laughter of the group as they exercise both body, mind and spirit making the earth move under their feet," said Suber. "The exercise program is unique as it not only takes place in a safe, convenient, and fully furnished room - it is free."

During the presentation program, MHA was praised for going beyond the normal and routine needs of their agency, and considering the needs of their entire community.

Accepting the award with Suber was Angie Rolland, MHS resident initiatives co-ordinator. Kima Stewart, principal of BIC West Elementary School, partnered with MHA and spearheaded the student effort in collection items for the earthquake kits. April Finch served as the exercise program instructor.

"Our exercise program has a room full of regular participants, plus drop-ins," said Suber. "They come from all walks of life to share and enjoy the exercise room on the same level, regardless of income or status in the community. The time they spend together has allowed them to make new friends and enjoy fellowshiping together on a regular basis."

The MHA agency motto is "The task ahead of us is never as great as the power behind us."

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