Healthy Projects Get Boost in Funding

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- It takes money to build pools, extend walking trails and start gardens. Several projects got a boost in funding today that will hopefully improve the health of communities down the road.

Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield announced the winning projects to receive $7,500 each to make the community healthier. Originally, the health insurer was going to give out a total of $75,000 to 10 projects, but leaders decided to give out more. Executive Vice President Laura Jackson says, "We've had such an overwhelming response to the application process, so instead of 10 communities, we're actually going to surprise an additional six and provide them also with $7,500."

One of the winning projects is the Allen Garden Project in Des Moines. It’s one of four community gardens in the city. The project is expected to cost $300,000 and will be located at 6th and Maury Streets near the Des Moines River. Leaders with the Des Moines Parks and Recreation Department want it to be more than just a garden. Marketing Supervisor Jen Fletcher says, "If funding allows, we want to add some raised beds, a water gathering tank. We're going to add some accessible beds and perhaps a gathering area for the middle, so we can host events and do some fun programming."

Other winning projects include a new basketball court in Altoona's Ironwood neighborhood, renovations at the Masonic Park in Leon and repairs and updates to the Mormon Trail pool in Humeston, which serves people in four counties.

Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Vice President of Communications Mike Gerrish says, “We’re fixing pools, we’re extending trails that didn’t have the funding. We’re really giving back in meaningful ways where it’s a lasting impression. It’s not just a one-time investment, it’s long term sustainable pieces of health and wellness in the community.”

The money comes from Wellmark’s advertising budget. 180 projects applied for the funding. 108 projects qualified. More than 85,000 people voted online to help determine the winners.