Inside Seven
Current Issue: September 2014
L to R. Top Row: Will Kempton, Darryl Mays, Randy Iwasaki. Bottom: Melanie Bradford, Ollie Jackson, Vanessa Bow, Dave White

by  Judy Gish
Issue Date: 10/2006

Wellness Center attracts statewide attention for its positive impact on employees' lives

For the District 7 Wellness Committee, things are going very well indeed.

The Wellness Center, opened in spring of last year, is now raising the fitness levels of more than 200 Caltrans and LADOT employees. It has become so helpful to employees, in fact, that the five-member Wellness Center Committee was flown to Sacramento on August 18 to receive a Governor’s Employee Safety Award at the 26th Annual Awards Ceremony.

The awards, presented this year to representatives from 14 various state agencies, honors “individuals, groups and departments who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to employee safety.”  The Wellness Center Committee was honored for creating a non-profit entity and acquiring exercise equipment and instructional materials that are available to all District employees. According to the statewide awards committee, “the (Wellness Center) Committee’s effort to promote healthy lifestyle choices and provide a fully-equipped workout location is expected to reduce absenteeism and help to prevent work-related injuries.”

First germinated when the employees were located in the old building, the current committee was formed in 2003 and consists of: Vanessa Bow; Ollie Jackson; Melanie Bradford; and Dave White. A fifth member, Darryl Hayes, joined shortly after the center opened. One of the committee’s first tasks was to determine what employees would want in a fitness center and what that would cost. The final product was based on the needs of the majority. “We wanted what they wanted,” said committee chair Vanessa Bow.

Fortunately, management was very supportive, she said, setting aside space for the center in the design of the new building. For liability reasons, however, it was necessary that a non-profit entity be formed to operate it. The next step was financing, which was accomplished through a generous grant from the Professional Engineers in California Government (PECG) and membership fees. Through judicious planning and careful shopping, the committee managed to fully equip the facility while limiting fees to under $100 per person for a one-year membership.

“Future plans include upgrading the patio area and the committee’s dream is to outfit it with outdoor turf,” said Melanie Bradford. “It could then be used for cardio-vascular workouts and even include a meditation area.” Those improvements, however, would depend on additional donations, she said. Meanwhile, the committee is looking into offering yoga and aerobics classes, a personal trainer (at member expense) and a WeightWatchers at Work program.

According to Administration Deputy Jim Hammer, the center already has had a positive impact on employees’ lives.  Members have reported lower blood pressure, decreased symptoms of diabetes and hypertension, increased energy levels and improved relationships.

This is all the committee had hoped. “It’s confirmation that the energy and work that we put into this is really beneficial to all employees in terms of an improved work environment and quality of life,” said Bow.

And the recognition continues. On October 25, the committee will receive a Pioneer Award from the Caltrans Quality Program at a ceremony to be held in District 7. The awards highlight improvements that have delivered results.

The center also has made an impression on Caltrans Director Will Kempton, who invited Bow to address the last Director’s Meeting in Headquarters. The Director would like to see a similar facility in every district. “We are hoping to serve as an inspiration,” she said.