In the Birthplace

James Naismith

James Naismith (public domain image file from Wikipedia Commons).

In the winter of 1891-1892, Canadian graduate student James Naismith invented basketball in Springfield, MA as an adaptation of many sports (rugby, lacrosse, soccer) for  indoor play.  Nearly 120 years later, a group of community activists meet weekly to address the skyrocketing rates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease in this same neighborhood.

I am honored to be working with the newly formed Healthy Community Collaborative in Mason Square.  This task force is a collaboration of ten established organizations in Springfield.  The idea is to train people from each of these organizations to be advocates for healthy behavior in their community.  I see my role as teaching reliable online health resources.  At this point in time, we are getting to know each other.  This task force is a 4-year project funded by Baystate Health.   Below is a list of the organizations, a link to their websites, and a synopsis of what they do. 

I hope my work with them will be a two-way street:  help them learn about reliable online resources and help me understand the issues faced by the residents of Mason Square.  This is an exciting opportunity for our library to expand our purpose for existing—helping address the health issues of Springfield through educating AND learning from residents.  So, when I head out to Mason Square, this is who I am meeting with! 

Concerned Citizens of Mason Square/Farmers’ Market  For years, due to economic decline and government neglect, the area surrounding Mason Square was a food desert.  While there are plenty of fast food and take-out options, until the market, there were very little chances to purchase nutritious, whole foods at an affordable price.  The Concerned Citizens of Mason Square organized and started the Mason Square Farmer’s Market to fill that void. 

Gardening the Community  Gardening the Community is a youth-centered, community based urban agriculture program in Springfield that is committed to teaching the benefits of organic farming and healthy eating. The vision is to introduce and foster principles of sustainable living through active engagement with the community. 

EACH, Inc. Somali Access Project (no website)  The Somali Access Project is a project guided by Healthy Community Collaborative to support Somalis and all East African Communities residing Mason Square and greater Springfield to create healthy community of New Americans from East Africa.  The goal is to give these communities the experience of how to increase lifespan, decrease deaths from heart disease and stroke, control of infectious diseases and to have healthier parents and babies.

Faith Unlimited Institute  The mission of the Faith Unlimited Institute is to reduce recidivism, enhance self-sufficiency, and enhance family life for ex-offenders returning to their families and their communities by mentoring, reunifying and strengthening families, and facilitating education, employment and career development through communities and people of faith.

Mason Square Veterans Outreach Center  Outreach Centers are non-profit organizations that receive state money through DVS to assist veterans and their families with a range of services. These vary by location and can include: assistance and referrals to obtain federal and state veterans’ benefits; food pantry and clothing closets; transportation services; community activities and a wide variety of counseling services.

Men of Color Health Awareness Project  MOCHA is an innovative health movement in Springfield, Massachusetts which seeks to reduce health disparities in the city by creating health-conscious norms and diffusing them through men of color’s personal and social networks.

Puerto Rican Cultural Center  The mission of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, Inc. is to advocate and provide a forum for educational, leadership and economic development programs, promote cultural awareness and enable access to benefits from available resources to the Puerto Rican and other Spanish speaking communities.

SCAN 360   SCAN 360 is a One Stop Family Center and Network in the city of Springfield which offers assistance to families in the community who have a family member with a developmental disability. Staff are committed to helping families access information and support through a network of human service agencies and community service providers.

Springfield Partners for Community Action  Springfield Partners for Community Action serves more than 11,000 low-income people annually. Their mission is to empower people in need to attain self-sufficiency and economic stability. They do this through education and outreach, and by offering programs to help people build assets, obtain affordable childcare, get free home weatherization and tax filing services, and much, much more.

Stone Soul Festival  Stone Soul began in 1989 as a community reunion picnic aimed at gathering together the Mason Square Community. It has since evolved into a three day festival, encompassing the Springfield and greater Springfield area.  The main goals of Stone Soul Festival are to establish an annual festival to provide family oriented activities, entertainment and cultural enrichment. It is a vehicle for minority businesses to display their wares and crafts. Local, state and national entertainment are provided free of charge. Stone Soul hosts Job Fairs, Social Service Agencies, Health Care Providers and many other community services.

And for inspiration, check out this eleven-minute video:

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