In the month of March, Activate Elgin’s March into Health  programming, led by Gail Borden Public Library District, moves our whole community. In this celebration of National Nutrition Month , we facilitate more than 30 free wellness events for all ages and interests.
In collaboration with dozens of enthusiastic and strong community health partners from government, health and wellness, fitness, and nutrition arenas, we encourage professionals from our community to share wellness opportunities and wisdom. These fun and educational events foster a healthy and engaged lifestyle and encourage lifelong learning by introducing more of the community to the library's resources.
We work in collaboration with our 10 health partners, and 30 sponsors and partners, and begin planning in August of the previous year. Partners are consistent contributors at the quarterly Activate Elgin meetings. Sponsors are organizations and businesses that contribute in-kind or monetarily to the cost of March Into Health.
We start by inviting local organizations and businesses to propose health-related events for the month. We market the opportunity to our partners, past sponsors and the wider community each year. To find collaborators, libraries looking to replicate the program model are encouraged to consider forest preserves, parks and recreation departments, local food coops, grocery stores, hospitals, fitness centers, businesses, restaurants, health departments and social service providers, as well as universities, senior living organizations, early childhood organizations and local school districts. We accept submissions via an online application .
Gail Borden Public Library supports the March into Health committee — composed of a hospital, a family care center, our local school district, YMCA, and our county health department — by connecting community partners and sponsors to the presenters and program ideas; organizing data and research; hosting and chairing committee planning meetings; organizing and calculating event attendance data; creating online program submission form; curating booklists for various events; highlighting the library’s new and popular collections, called Market Place books, with wellness themes throughout March; and creating original programming,
The library’s graphics department designs a marketing brochure with information about events and partners/sponsors. It is mailed in the March/April newsletter to more than 55,000 district homes. This brochure is paid for by the Activate Elgin Coalition.
Partners and March into Health committee members facilitate translation, additional marketing and social media, event submission review, kick-off entertainment selection, prize and winner selection, sponsorship form creation and distribution, fiduciary responsibilities and prize redemption.
Gail Borden Public Library District’s program planning volunteers support data entry, event welcome table and prize entry form assistance, contribute to planning meetings, confirm prize donations, further social media and poster/brochure marketing, and create spreadsheets for attendance from entry form submissions.
We advertise the programs on our library website , through our library newsletter mailing; in brochures  available at each partner and sponsor location; on the library's Twitter  and Facebook , and the social media of partners/sponsors and local government; and on community websites (partners/sponsors, visitors’ bureau, neighborhood associations, public forums, etc.).
We also received coverage in local media, including newspapers, radio, local information app and local cultural interest magazine. In 2018, our press included an article in the Elgin Courier-News  and the Daily Herald .
The 2018 March into Health programming cost us a total of $4,800. This included:
- Brochure in library newsletter: $2,900
- Event food demo and entertainment and prizes: $1,050
- Other March into Health events: $850
We received a number of in-kind donations, including gift cards and donated items for prize drawings. These included a bike, lunch at a deli, fruit from a produce market; and cookie coupons. Our 34 presenters also gave their time pro bono.
All large March into Health events at the library require 20+ table mics, 300 chairs, podium, screen, projection, sound, DVD and sound tower access, translation equipment (for bilingual programs), balloons, tablecloth, refreshments and a flatbed cart for partner and sponsor deliveries and set-up.
Large events for the program require three staff and as many as six event volunteers. March into Health planning requires one staff project planner, one staff member to update the MIH application each year, one staff liaison for KidSpace, and one or two staff liaisons to Branch services. Volunteers are essential for event planning and support: two event planning volunteers, one volunteer to support and distribute our marketing, and up to four event volunteers for each library-hosted program.
The Gail Borden Public Library has chaired the March into Health committee since its inception in 2012, when it launched with 18 programs and 20 partners and sponsors. By 2018, it had grown to 34 events, attended by over 2,500 community members and 30 partners and sponsors.We achieve more of our goals every year because we gather new partners and sponsors and listen at programs to what the community likes and what we can improve.
These are three of our standout programs, hosted for different age groups, to show the range of possibilities:
- March into Health Kick-off: Held at the Gail Borden Public Library Main Library, 884 attendees enjoyed roaming fruit jugglers in our lobby, free fruit, a sushi demo and tasting, crafts and health-related passive programming, health and recreation information for all ages and a lively interactive performance by Chicago-area circus performance students . All 30 Activate Elgin Partners and sponsors contribute to the annual kick-off, with specific planning and execution by the March into Health subcommittee: Saint Joseph’s Hospital, Greater Elgin Family Care Center, School District U-46, Elgin Parks and Recreation, Taylor YMCA, Kane County Health Department, and sponsors Tarragon Catering, Aldi, McAllister’s Deli and Elgin Fresh Market.
- Healthy ME Family Interactive Festival: Roughly 95 attendees came to the main library for yoga stories presented by GBPLD KidSpace Librarian, Katie Clausen; large block building family activity; dance and movement led by members of our sponsor, The Links, Inc., who also provided interactive dental health habits, financial health, healthy snack stations around the perimeter of the room. Another sponsor, Create, Innovate, IGNITE! had two creativity and movement stations to creatively engage families with artistic movement, building a heart healthy bracelet and painting activities.
- Healthy Travels Lunch & Learn: Held offsite at the Senior Service Association, 25 seniors joined Gail Borden Library’s Life Enrichment Liaison Glenna Godinsky for a journey through Greece (birthplace of the Olympics) via GBPLD Tales and Travel Dementia and memory program. Glenna facilitated a Swooshball demo and activity, and attendees enjoyed light exercise led by Senior Services Staff with a free healthy lunch provided. This event was made possible by our sponsors: Senior Services Associates, Inc. and DuPage Senior Citizens/Council Kane Senior Council
Attendance is recorded by each program host. Audience feedback is primarily immediate and verbal, followed by social media engagement. We use attendee input and attendance statistics to design the following year's programming.
To encourage participation March into Health offers a wide variety of prizes for all interests. Attendees can enter for the grand prize drawings at each event. The grand prize winners are announced in April.
Build strong and solid partnerships at health community tables and include them in building your own community vision. Consider the literacy and service promotion opportunities in wellness coalition circles inside and outside your doors.
There are unexpected benefits working with community groups to showcase and explore creative community-wide programming. You will find the more collaboration you have, the easier it is to see how literacy and lifelong learning are key components to community health.
This project was a seven-year process with many unexpected challenges, process changes and innovations that have made it efficient and effective over time. We have learned to lead from our individual and organizational strengths and to adapt the project to feedback from the community and partners.
About This Library
The award-winning Gail Borden Public Library District, 2009 National Medal for Museum and Library Services recipient, serves more than 148,000 residents. The Main Library, facing the Fox River in Elgin, Ill., along with the Rakow and South Elgin Branches, average 3,000 visitors daily. Elgin is the nation’s 27th most diverse city with a $60,499 median household income (U.S. Census, 2011-15 ACS). In Elgin’s 34,848 households, 14 percent (18 percent for Latinos and 30 percent for Asians) live below the poverty level. About 150 FTE library staff at three locations serve patrons within a 65-square-mile area both inside the libraries and in the community.