In business, like most other endeavors, a person is often a product of their environment. Many local companies are taking that notion to heart, literally, as 12 area businesses have been designated gold level "Fit-Friendly" by the American Heart Association.
These companies were singled out for helping employees "eat better and move more."
Allison Oltmann, director for the American Heart Association Heart Walk, praised the nominees for promoting a healthy work environment.
Tribune Chronicle file photo
Merle Linsenbigler of Vienna, above, and Kathy Reckner of Niles, below, works out at St. Joe’s at the Mall at Eastwood Mall. St. Joe’s is part of the Humility of Mary health partners, which was designated one of the “Fit-Friendly businesses in the Mahoning Valley by the American Heart Association. Helping Reckner below is St. Joe’s employee Lana Eddy-Campfield.
"Maintaining a healthy and fit-friendly environment for employees are important priorities for many local companies, and we are so proud that these 12 have gone above and beyond," Oltmann said.
Among the criteria the American Heart Association looks for are healthy eating options, sharing of innovative health ideas to be implemented into the workplace and a general culture of wellness.
Boardman Medical Supply in Girard was selected for the second consecutive year, as it hit on each of the criteria.
Leigh Perkins, director of nursing at Boardman Medical Supply, has taken charge of the healthy living opportunities.
The first step, according to Perkins, was to make the business a non-smoking environment.
"We offer our employees the option of going through our tobacco-free program through Humility of Mary," Perkins said.
The company also sponsors a monthly newsletter that stresses recipes for healthy eating, a website discussing general wellness and regular yoga classes available for employees.
"We bring someone in from outside our business to teach the yoga class," Perkins said. "We also have a kettlebell class and employees are encouraged to bring their own kettlebell to take part."
In addition, Boardman Medical Supply offers a Health Risk Assessment Day, during which employees can get free blood work to check for cholesterol and other potential problems.
"After taking the tests, our employees can then go online and do an assessment," Perkins explained. "That will tell them what areas they need to improve upon for a healthy lifestyle. It might be stress, weight control or other things."
At the end of the day, Perkins' most important health decision may have been the simplest. She took all the junk food out of the vending machines and replaced them with healthy options like granola bars and check mix.
"That didn't make me too popular around here at first," Perkins laughed. "But, I think they've gotten used to it."
Perkins said the recognition serves as motivation to continue the good work.
"It's great and it's a nice reward to get just because it helps our employees a little to start working toward a healthy lifestyle," she said. "We think that is very important and we take it seriously."
The Youngstown-based Cafaro Company made the "Fit-Friendly" list for the first time.
Joe Bell, director of corporate communications for Cafaro Company, said the business' human resource department has taken several steps toward promoting a healthy lifestyle for employees.
"We have organized competitions like the "biggest loser," where we see who in the office can lose the most weight," Bell said. "We also offer strategies and better exercise routines for our employees."
Other notable efforts include offering discounted memberships to local community centers and allowing time during the day for walks or runs around the building."
"You can come at pretty much any time during the day and you'll see people walking around the building," Bell said. "We even have some competitive runners on staff and people who bike competitively. They take it really seriously.
"This is a wonderful honor and very flattering," he continued.
Shepherd of the Valley in Howland, who has been recognized for healthy living in the past, was also on the 2013 list.
Lynn Miller, corporate marketing director at Shepherd of the Valley, has seen several changes at the corporate offices. She explained the nature of the work at Shepherd of the Valley pushes staff toward healthier living.
"Since we work with senior citizens, and we push them to stay fit and exercise, that helps permeate the whole attitude," Miller said. "Getting this recognition is a motivation, just knowing we are heading in the right direction."
Meanwhile, ValleyCare Health Systems of Ohio received gold level recognition with three of its affiliates. Earning that title were Northside Medical Center, Trumbull Memorial Hospital and Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital.
Kirk Ray, chief executive officer of ValleyCare Health System, called workplace fitness a "priority."
"We are honored and excited to be recognized by the American Heart Association's initiative as a gold level Fit-Friendly worksite," Ray said. "Employee wellness and physical activity are important here, and we encourage all our employees to live a more Fit-Friendly life."