Diabetes program changes church members

Published 9:57 pm Saturday, October 26, 2013

The American Diabetes Association completed another round of its Project Power: Victory Over Diabetes program on Saturday.

The Obici Healthcare Foundation-funded program enlists volunteer ambassadors at churches in Suffolk and Western Tidewater to teach their fellow parishioners about how to prevent and manage diabetes.

Elaine Beamon, an associate minister at Gethsemane Baptist Church, said the program has helped people at her church lose about 200 pounds total and get the disease under control.

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“We decided our church needed to get involved,” she said, especially after an informal survey of the church members showed about 70 percent had diabetes or knew someone with diabetes.

After it first participated in Project Power, the program grew into what the church now calls its “Healthy, Happy and Holy” Ministry. About 30 people visit on the first Tuesday of each month for exercise, a healthy meal, health screenings and educational programs.

“It’s made a difference,” Beamon said, noting she and her husband George are examples. “I was pre-diabetic, and now I’m not. His numbers have improved.”

The church also has improved its practices, Beamon said. When members sit down to a meal together, they now find baked chicken, turkey and more vegetable offerings, rather than fried chicken and other unhealthy options.

It matters on more than just a physical level, she said.

“If you aren’t healthy, you can’t really go out and witness,” Beamon said. “If you don’t take care of a person’s physical wellbeing, it’s hard to concentrate on the spiritual aspect.”

Saturday’s program included victory stories like Gethsemane’s from a number of different churches.

The Project Power program focuses on black churches in Suffolk and Western Tidewater because black people are at higher risk for diabetes, and the area has a disproportionately high rate of diabetes sufferers and complications.

Saturday’s event included health screenings, healthy food samples, presentations on diabetes care, discussions with experts and cooking demonstrations such as oven-fried chicken.

“It’s showing people you don’t always have to throw it in some grease,” Lawrence Lambert of the American Diabetes Association said.

The program has been funded for another round, which will begin in January. For more information about getting your church involved, call Lambert at 424-6662, ext. 3277.