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Diabetes Wellness and Prevention Cooking Demo

22 Feb

By Leah Berger-Singer, Preventive Health Coordinator

As you walked through the hallways of the YWCA on February 11th, you might have smelled something that reminded you of your family’s cooking – the smell of garlic and onion sizzling in a pan of olive oil. The delicious smell was coming from the Multipurpose Room where twelve participants from the Diabetes Wellness and Prevention program gathered for a Cooking Demonstration led by Cathy Hohenstein, Registered Dietitian for NC Cooperative Extension, and her Intern Clara.

126Before the program began, we chopped and peeled vegetables to prep for the Turkey Chili and White Bean Soup that would be served to the group. As participants arrived to the Cooking Demo, they were given handouts on a variety of topics related to soups and chili ranging from ways to soak and cook dried beans to a list of healthy soup toppings. Next, participants were given a sample of both the Turkey Chili and White Bean Soup and were even able to try some of those healthy soup toppings, such as Greek yogurt, cilantro, jalapeno, and green onion.

Cathy explained the health benefits of using soaked beans for soup recipes rather than canned beans (no sodium or preservatives!) and provided different techniques and prep options. Gene Collington, Diabetes Wellness and Prevention participant, said, “I enjoyed it because it shows you what you can do with beans. You can make beans in different ways other than just dried or cooked beans.” Cathy also gave other helpful kitchen tips. Did you know you can make a broth just by boiling vegetables?

127Throughout the Cooking Demo, Cathy showed participants how to make the White Bean Soup step-by-step. Participants were delighted to watch her make something as healthy, fresh and delicious as this soup was. Walter Robertson, Diabetes Wellness and Prevention participant, said, “The structure of the class was very well put together. It was informative, informal, and a relaxed atmosphere. She didn’t rush through it and she explained everything.”

128This Cooking Demonstration is just one example of the various workshops we have in the Diabetes Wellness and Prevention program. We have workshops such as Grocery Store Tours, Farmers Market Tours, and other Cooking Demos. Participants also have the opportunity to learn something new and health-related in our Weekly Support Group. Don’t just take my word on the program, Walter said, “It’s very beneficial. We get something out of it, and the discussion doesn’t just end after the program”. This is a great example of how Cooking Demos, Support Group, and other workshops provided in the program are learning experiences that start in the YWCA, but they expand outside of our walls and continue into the homes of the participants in the Diabetes Wellness and Prevention Program.

To learn more about joining our Diabetes Wellness & Prevention Program, contact Leah Berger-Singer at or at 828-254-7206 x. 212. 

The YWCA of Asheville’s Diabetes Wellness and Prevention program is supported by an educational grant from Novo Nordisk Inc., the NC Dept. Health & Human Services – Office of Minority Health, Mission Health Community Benefits Program, YWCA donors, and the United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County.


Diabetes Awareness and the YWCA

23 Nov

November is National Diabetes Month, but every month of the year the YWCA of Asheville works to raise awareness about diabetes and its impact on our community.

The Diabetes Wellness & Prevention program at the YWCA gives participants the power to take control of their health. In this program participants who desire to make lasting change build community, and leave feeling stronger, healthier, more knowledgeable, and – above all – supported.

Watch the following video to hear the story of one participant in our Diabetes Wellness & Prevention program, Jennifer Wilmer:


To learn more about joining our Diabetes Wellness & Prevention Program, contact Leah Berger-Singer at or at 828-254-7206 x. 212. 

The YWCA of Asheville’s Preventive Health programming is supported by an educational grant from Novo Nordisk Inc., the NC Dept. Health & Human Services – Office of Minority Health, Mission Health Community Benefits Program, YWCA donors, and the United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County.

Salsa, Sabor y Salud Wraps-up its Final Days with the Sweetness of Honey

14 Aug

By Leah Berger-Singer

This summer flew by quickly as our participants in Salsa, Sabor y Salud (our Latino Health Outreach Program) enjoyed learning simple steps to living a healthier, happier lifestyle. Throughout the program, we had volunteers and guest speakers come to the YWCA  to talk to our participants about various ways to make changes in their livSalsaes. On July 22nd, Dr. Lopez-Stratton, a medical practitioner from Mission Haywood Family Medicine, came to speak with us about bees, pollination and various ways we can eat and use honey. Dr. Lopez-Stratton brought in a live bee hive, along with some local honey, and provided tips and recipes on how to use honey for medicinal purposes. Our participants were able to enjoy a healthy snack of greek yogurt and fresh peaches with a drizzle of honey on top. ¡Que rico! (In English, this means “how delicious”).

The Salsa model includes the whole family in learning – running concurrent sessions for both children and adults. “[In Salsa], we learneSalsa2d how to eat more and more [healthy] every week and to try new things and to get outside more. Now we go to the park and when we are finished playing, we go on walks around the park”, stated Priscilla, age 12. Mariana, age 10, noticed the changes that her mother has made at the grocery store and in the kitchen. “My mom is not buying bread or sweets [anymore]. She also makes some vegetable juices that are good”. Salsa aims to help parents demonstrate healthy habits resulting in children learning healthy routines while maintaining family traditions, customs and meal recipes.

For more information about our Salsa, Sabor y Salud program, contact Leah Berger-Singer, Preventative Health Coordinator, by email at or by calling 828-254-7206 x. 212. For more information about the Preventive Health program, visit

Thank you to Mission Health for your support of the Salsa, Sabor y Salud program.

David Gist’s Story: Sharing My Knowledge on Health & Wellness

6 Aug

A conversation with Joshua McClure, Club W Coordinator, and David Gist, Club W member and new Fitness Associate. 


Joshua: How long have you been involved with the YWCA? 

I have been coming to the YWCA since 2006. I started out in the Diabetes Wellness & Prevention Program, working with different staff including Katie Souris. I really enjoyed working with Katie, as she was always willing to help me and hear me out, but also when something was wrong or needed to be said, Katie would say it.

Joshua: How long have you lived Asheville?

I am from Asheville, and have been living here for over 65 years. (All my life, so that should tell you my age).

Joshua: What are some positive things happening in your life?

My marriage would have to be the biggest positive I have in my life right now. My health has improved, and I have wonderful step children as well. I’m very thankful to a lot of the YWCA staff, Joshua McClure, Susan Kettren, Mary-Beth Herman and Katie Souris, for helping me and allowing me to keep my focus on health.

Joshua: What is your favorite thing(s) about the YWCA?

One of the things I enjoy about the YWCA is that I’m able to share my knowledge on health and wellness with other Club W members. It’s also a great place to work out and stay healthy.

Joshua: What has benefited you the most being a part of the YWCA?

One thing that has been a benefit is my overall understanding about diabetes, through the help of the Diabetes Wellness & Prevention Program. I have been able to keep my blood sugar at a normal place, and the program has helped me become more familiar with what diabetes is, eating the right food, working out, and keeping up with my medication.

Joshua: What is one thing that people don’t know about you?

I’m a big football and basketball fan! I’ve been a fan of the Dallas Cowboys since the 1960’s. I follow the San Antonio Spurs in basketball.

Joshua: What advice would you give people that are interested in the YWCA?

I would tell folks to come in and ask for more information about the YWCA. There are all types of information you can get in terms of health, classes, and having somewhere to workout.

Learn more about the YWCA’s Club W Health & Fitness Center at

A Thank You Note

22 Jul

By Katie Souris

On November 11th, 2011, I began a 10 hour per week position at the YWCA of Asheville assisting the Care Counselor of the Diabetes Wellness and Prevention Program with general office work such as faxing and creating sign-up sheets. I soon began taking on other tasks, like making the support group schedule and handouts for various health topics. Before long I was doing intakes, attending groups and talking to participants about my experiences living with type 1 diabetes.

I remember the first participant I met in the program, a man named J.J. – we were coming down the stairs from the mezzanine and he was walking up. I recall thinking how he and Mehgan, the Care Counselor before me, greeted each other like old friends and how welcoming he was to me. I didn’t know it then, but J.J. was just beginning his journey towards losing more than 100 lbs.

Katie Souris and program participant, David Gist

Katie Souris and program participant, David Gist

The first time I facilitated our wellness support group was the beginning of my journey towards discovering what I love most about my job. I agonized over my presentation, outlining every detail, rehearsing in the shower, in the car and practicing with friends. The topic was ‘Sick-Day Wellness’ and I made laminated wallet-sized tip cards for everyone to take home. I made peppermint tea that almost no one drank. I was sure everyone thought I was crazy but soon enough we were engaged in a meaningful conversation about people’s experiences. If you had told me that three years later I would feel comfortable facilitating wellness groups and relating to diverse groups of individuals I would have (nervously) laughed at you. This job has helped me practice some of my most valuable skills through direct experience, and learn that talking about health is one of my favorite things to do.

My dream of working full-time at the YWCA and having a bigger role in the Diabetes Wellness and Prevention Program team slowly became a reality when a little over a year ago I became the Coordinator of Preventive Health. Coordinating the program has given me the opportunity to experience more of the challenges of organizing and implementing a health intervention program. One of the hardest parts has been balancing scheduling, meetings, and grant reporting with the time I spend interacting one-on-one with participants. Yet, just when I feel swamped with spreadsheets and logistics, I’ll have a conversation with someone who is creating and bravely navigating positive transformations in their life.  Getting to tell those stories in the community, to secure great guest speakers and events for participants, and to watch people change is what motivates me.

Now after nearly four years I am ready to create and navigate a change in my life, and I have my work and time at the YWCA to thank for that. I didn’t know when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes my freshman year of college that it would set off such a grand adventure for me. I didn’t know that I’d meet so many amazing people because of it. I didn’t know I would feel drawn to work that related to chronic conditions and public health. Finding the Diabetes Wellness and Prevention Program has changed my life just as much as I’ve seen it change anyone’s. As I leave my position at the YWCA and begin a new adventure, I am excited to hear how the program continues to grow and improve, as I continue to follow the lessons I’ve learned here.

Thank you Katie for four great years! Katie’s last day at the YWCA is July 31st. 

Latino Mothers are Eager to Improve Their Health Through “Salsa Sabor y Salud”

16 Jul

By Leah Berger-Singer 

If you are a stranger walking into the YWCA’s multipurpose room on Wednesday mornings you may feel as if you are walking into a room full of controlled chaos. However, with twenty children ages 1 through 12 and sixteen of their mothers, Salsa Sabor y Salud (SSS) is a program that has a lot to offer, including the feeling of having the freedom to run about.

Katie Souris, Preventive Health Coordinator, and I are working together to teach Latino families about the importance of eating a nutritious diet and getting daily exercise in both fun and creative ways. This program is free to join, lasts for seven weeks and each session is two hours long. During each session we teach a nutrition lesson in which we do an art activity, play a game and/or have a discussion all related to food. We also provide some sort of physically active game, dance or exercise, such as yoga or zumba.

SALSA 7.15.16 002

On our second week of SSS mothers had already made changes to their daily routine and were happy to share what they had been doing to improve their health. One mother stated: “yo veo videos de youtube cuando quiero hacer ejercicio,” to translate, she watches Youtube videos when she wants to get exercise. Other mothers nodded in agreement that this was a resource they could use to be physically active at home. One mom mentioned that she stopped drinking sodas as well as stopped eating less-healthy foods such as tortillas and other flour-heavy foods. Another woman shared that she was drinking “liquidos verdes” or green smoothies, with garlic, celery, kale, spinach and other veggies.

During our most recent session of SSS, in order to introduce the importance of growing and cooking your own fresh food we read Ruth Krauss’ famous book, La Semilla de Zanahoria, which you may know as The Carrot Seed. We folded origami newspaper planters, and the children filled them with soil and radish seeds.

Every week each one of us learns and teaches something new, creating a friendly, familial atmosphere for Salsa, Sabor y Salud at the YWCA of Asheville.

Madalyn Rogers’ Story: Embracing the Spirit of the YWCA

7 Jul

I’m a native of Asheville – I’ve lived here all my life except for 1 year away at college in Savannah. My whole family consists of “super natives!” I have a degree in art from UNC Asheville – I love to draw. I work with my father at Hammond Antiques – an antiques store in Burnsville – where I repair and refinish furniture. I love working with my hands; taking something that’s broken and bringing it back to life.

Madalyn Rogers

Madalyn Rogers

I have four children; they’re 27, 22, 10, and 4 years-old. I also have an 11 month-old granddaughter.

I’ve always struggled with being a little bit overweight, but until my mid 20s I was active and took good care of myself. I was fit. But after a series of things that happened in my life I didn’t eat as well, and my metabolism couldn’t keep up with it.  I reached a point where my health has been affected it.

I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes with my last baby – that was a wake-up call for me. My grandmother and mom have diabetes, and I knew that this is something that runs in my family. My doctor told me that my A1C was too high: “You’re diabetic – we need to do something about it.” I was fooling myself that I wasn’t getting less and less healthy. I needed that truth in my face that I really had to make some changes in how I was eating and how I was living.

I started the YWCA’s Diabetes Wellness & Prevention program in December. I love it here – it’s so challenging and encouraging. It’s made me face hard facts about eating habits and emotional issues around eating. The way I grew up I learned an unhealthy relationship with food. I come from a big family without a lot of money – we ate what was cheapest and easiest to get. I developed a taste for processed food. I’m also an emotional eater; I have struggled with depression and one of the things I do is eat.

When I started coming to the YW I started feeling so much better. I’m still struggling with what I’m eating, but my clothes are looser, I’m more energetic, and my body can do things it couldn’t do two months ago. I recently went on hike with family and climbed up a hillside of rocks, and it wasn’t difficult for me. It was really exciting for me – suddenly I could trust my body to do things that I hadn’t been able to trust it to do in a long time.

It’s a huge help to have the accountability of meeting with my YW trainer, Sean, every week. He’s a joy to work with. He’s encouraging, but he knows when to tell the truth. He asked me to keep a food journal… I was ticked off at him for a few days for that because it was easier to be mad at him than at myself. It showed me how deep my issues are, and how much work I have to do, which was discouraging and good at the same time.

It hasn’t been easy, but my family is very supportive. At first my husband would still get the kind of groceries that weren’t helping the situation. Then I explained to him that bringing food I shouldn’t be eating into the house is like if I was a recovering alcoholic and he was putting beer in the fridge. That really clicked with him. I can tell that he really cares. He is learning with me, and is committed to being my teammate.

I have 84 pounds to go to reach my goal weight. But that’s not my only goal.

-I want to go do a zipline.  You have to weigh below a certain number, so I need to reach that first – my best friend promised she would do it with me.

-In 1 to 2 summers I want to take a two-week hike on the Appalachian trail.

-My goddaughter is a fashion guru – when I reach my goal weight she’s going to take me shopping for a whole new wardrobe.

-Lastly, my long term dream is to take my family to serve on a mercy ship – these are giant cruise ships that have been converted to hospitals that dock off the coasts of poor nations. Teams go in to the country and bring back people who can’t get medical care where they are. But they won’t let you go if you have a chronic health problem, so I need to make sure that my health is under check.

My goals are all things that make me hopeful. Before joining this program I had started to feel like: this is who I am; I can never be fit again. My identity had gotten wrapped up in things I couldn’t do physically – I had to get fed up with it.

I’ve embraced the spirit of the YWCA – that it’s ok to be honest about what’s bad and what’s good, and to be willing to face it and make a change. I find myself surrounded by people who’ve been on a journey. We’re able to understand and support each other because we’ve all had something to face in our lives.

YWCA of Asheville Chosen as Premier Cares Award Finalist for Diabetes Program

3 Mar

Verner Center for Early Learning’s Rainbow in My Tummy®  program and the YWCA of Asheville’s Diabetes Wellness & Prevention program have both been honored by Premier, Inc. as finalists for the 23rd annual Monroe E. Trout Premier Cares Award. Rainbow In My Tummy was recognized for increasing nutritional literacy of children, families and early childhood caregivers. Diabetes Wellness & Prevention was recognized for addressing health disparities among low-income patients who either have diabetes or are at high risk for developing the condition.003

A panel of national healthcare leaders selects the Premier Cares Award winner and five finalists, all of which receive cash awards for use in further improving their programs. The Cares Award program spotlights these community-based healthcare initiatives and helps other organizations learn to replicate the unique programs by featuring information about them on the Cares Award website. Sponsored by Premier and its member hospitals, the Cares Award recognizes exemplary efforts by not-for-profit community organizations to improve the health of populations in need. Representatives of Verner and the YWCA were honored during Premier’s annual Governance Education Conference, February 23-25.032

“Every year our Cares Award program honors six outstanding organizations that are helping to care for a medically underserved population in their community,” said Susan DeVore, Premier’s president and CEO. “Rainbow in My Tummy is improving the health of communities by providing nutritious food and education to children, child care centers and families. Diabetes Wellness and Prevention is making a true impact by helping to reduce the incidence of diabetes in at-risk patients through weight loss and exercise.”

Verner Center for Early Learning’s Rainbow in My Tummy program received $24,000 as a finalist. Created in 2008 by Verner Center for Early Learning, program staff members work with early care and education care centers to provide training, coaching and resources needed to change the food culture surrounding children ages birth to kindergarten. Goals of the program include significantly increasing the quality of food served to young children and shifting preferences away from processed foods.

From 2012 to 2014, several Head Start centers in the Asheville, North Carolina, area reported a significant drop in obesity rates among children as a result of the program’s work to help child care centers eliminate harmful ingredients from their menus.

“Rainbow In My Tummy exists because we love children and believe that ALL children deserve access to a wide variety of fresh, healthy, naturally colorful foods that taste good and are cooked from scratch. Being recognized by Premier enables us to further expand our services and replicate our program in other child care centers in WNC and across the nation.” Bronwen McCormick, Rainbow In My Tummy® Director

Watch the Rainbow in My Tummy video here.

029The YWCA of Asheville’s Diabetes Wellness and Prevention program also received $24,000 as a finalist. The program was started by the YWCA of Asheville in 2004 to align fitness offerings with their mission of addressing health disparities among low-income and at-risk people. Based on a community health needs assessment, organizers learned that more than 11 percent of area residents had been diagnosed with diabetes and an additional 6 percent had been diagnosed with pre-diabetes. The program helps patients understand the disease process, promotes regular exercise and healthy eating, teaches participants to use their medications correctly and helps patients manage their disease with appropriate and consistent lifestyle changes.

Services are offered by Diabetes Wellness and Prevention to many patients at sliding scale cost– including access to fitness facilities and personal training sessions. The program has helped significantly reduce blood sugar/A1c levels among those participating in the program.

In a film about the program shown at the awards ceremony, Susan Edwards, a Diabetes Wellness & Prevention program participant, shared that in the ten months she had participated in the program she had lost 30 pounds and several inches. Ms. Edwards says: “It’s been incredible to know that we’re all here working towards a goal of getting healthy, and [we] have the encouragement and the education to make it happen.” Since the film was produced Ms. Edwards has lost an additional 10 pounds, and says that not only her health but the health of her whole family has really improved.022

Watch the Diabetes Wellness & Prevention video here.

This year’s Cares Award recipient is Telepsychiatry Improves Outcomes in Frontier Communities of Orofino, Idaho. The program provides adult and pediatric psychiatry specialty services using teleconferencing to help care for a remote population of at-risk patients.

“Something I Want and Need to Do”: Francine Young’s Story

20 Feb

Francine Young

My name is Francine, and I’m a participant in the YWCA’s Diabetes Wellness & Prevention program.

I’ve lived in Asheville all of my life, and I have a 26 year-old son. I’ve been a bus driver with Asheville Regional Transit for 16 years.

My doctor had been telling me for some time that being overweight and having high blood pressure was putting me at risk for diabetes, but I never exercised. Then my friend Robin told me about the YWCA’s program, and I thought – that sounds like something I want and need to do.

Since I was accepted into the program in August I’ve made huge changes to my lifestyle. I go to wellness classes at the YW every Thursday, as well as support group meetings every week. I exercise three times per week – I take Zumba on Mondays and Tuesdays, and have personal training with Sean, who’s not afraid to challenge me. He’ll come over when I’m on the elliptical and say- “You wanna pump it up a little?”

In the group classes I’ve learned quite a bit. For example, I now check out the labels on my food – if I can’t say the name of the ingredient it’s not supposed to be in there!

Everyone is friendly at the YW, and everyone is helpful – whether they’re staff, other participants, or gym members. A barrier I always felt about exercising at other gyms is having the feeling of: “I don’t fit in here.” I didn’t feel comfortable exercising on my own in those situations. But I’ve realized I can’t wait on anybody – and at the YW, I don’t have to. As soon as I walk in the front door I know that people are happy to see me, and they care about my health.


Francine works out with her YWCA Fitness Counselor, Sean.

I had a physical a few weeks ago, and although I haven’t lost much weight yet, my blood pressure has gone down. My doctor told me: “I’m proud of you.” That felt good.

My goals for the rest of my time in the program are to continue lowering my blood pressure – it would be nice to be off all, or at least some, of my meds.

Another goal of mine is to try a water aerobics class. This may not seem like a huge deal, but I don’t know how to swim. I am so scared. But when I get into that water aerobics class I’ll know for sure that nothing can stop me. I’ve always been terrified of swimming… but you know what? I ordered myself a swimsuit.

Having A Support System: Charlton Owens’ Story

30 Jan

The following is an excerpt from a speech given by Charlton Owens at a recent YWCA event.

I’m Charlton Owens, and I’ve worked for the YWCA the past 11 years as a public safety officer. I make sure that our kids, our members, and our staff are safe.Charlton Owens

Around 5 years ago I was having health problems, and my doctor told me that I had diabetes. My blood sugar was over 600 – that’s a level that can lead to stroke, heart attack, total kidney failure, losing limbs.

I was watching TV one day and my eyes just cut off. I couldn’t see for a few hours – it was like turning off a light switch. It was my wife’s first time seeing me so scared… I remember she wiped a tear off my face. This experience gave me a good respect for people who go blind from diabetes. My doctor told me that I should join the Diabetes Wellness program at the YW.

But then my 25 year-old son died in a car accident – he left behind a daughter and an unborn son. A year and 8 months later, my wife passed away from complications due to her diabetes. We had been married 20 years.

I was grieving for my wife and son, but I knew that I had to remember that my other son and two grandkids relied on me. I started going to Diabetes Wellness meetings, and I was totally committed. I got a whole lot more active, especially after I went to the support groups and heard the horror stories from other diabetics in the program.

I would exercise before I went to work. I had to change my whole entire diet and lay off the fatty foods. Now I have a nickname at my local grocery store – “the kale man.” I eliminated sodas. My car stays parked a lot of the time. I’m 64 pounds lighter than I was the same time as last year, and my A1C level is currently 6, which is awesome.

I had a great support system right here at the YW. When you have a great support team it motivates you to get your life back on track. That’s why I go out of my way to tell people about the program, whether I’m on the clock or off the clock.

It just means that much to me because I learned a lot, and it changed my life.