This participant perspective is part of a larger story A Decade of Community Care.
Making Wellness Connections at Home
Brenda Wilson’s curiosity led to a community of support.
A buzz of activity one Wednesday morning is what drew Brenda Wilson, 66, to the community room of her apartment building, where she discovered the Richmond Health and Wellness Program.
“I was being nosy,” the native Richmonder said with a chuckle.
Like RHWP staff, caring for others runs through Wilson’s veins, and she spent a fair share of her career advocating for improved conditions for those living in community housing at residences like Church Hill House. She worked as a nursing assistant, and she also served nearly 20 years as vice president of the Fulton Tenant Council under the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority (RRHA).
For Wilson, who is now retired, RHWP has offered a door to expanded social connections on Wednesdays, including occasional fun and games like an afternoon of bingo mixed in with regular wellness checks.
In December 2022, Wilson found her connections to the program a valuable help after she fractured her back in a fall at her daughter’s home. After her doctor recommended a back brace, she came back home to Church Hill House with questions she could take to RHWP volunteers, who in turn offered her helpful suggestions for her recovery. The presence of the nurses and students is what has earned Wilson’s utmost trust in the program and its people.
“It’s a cushion,” Wilson said of the program. “You know you’re going to fall, but you know you have the cushion right there to catch you. So in between doctors’ appointments, you know they’re here on Wednesdays for any questions you may have. They listen, and whether I come down or not, it’s still good to know that they are here.”
Through the program, Wilson has also set two goals. The first: to cut down and eventually quit smoking cigarettes.
“They ask when you come down every week, ‘How many packs of cigarettes did you smoke since the last time we visited?’” she said.
Wilson admits that while she hasn’t quit, she doesn’t smoke as much as before and is still working on it.
The second goal, she said, is to eat more vegetables.
Thanks to a Prescription Produce Plan in partnership with Shalom Farms, Wilson has access to locally grown produce and has begun to change her eating habits.
“I’m one person who doesn’t cook a whole lot,” she said. “Before this, I would just grab and go, but now I’m trying to incorporate vegetables into my meals.”
Wilson is quick to praise RHWP, especially the patience and genuine support from its staff and students, and she said that many residents would be incredibly sad if the program ever ended.
“It would destroy our confidence in any type of program if this was snatched away,” she said. “I can count on the program, and I would hate to see them go.”