As executive director of the newly renamed Wellness Foundation in East Hampton, Jennifer Taylor said she feels the environment could not be riper for what her organization is trying to accomplish on the East End, as nationally the trend towards people striving to live healthier lives has hit an all time high.
“Divine intervention seems to have taken place,” she joked on Tuesday.
Just as the nation seems to be evolving out of the fast food culture of the 1980s and 1990s, the Wellness Foundation, founded by Doug and Pat Mercer in 2005 as the Nutrition for Wellness Foundation, is growing into a not-for-profit organization that not only promotes healthy eating habits, but now will also focus on fitness and stress management.
Tonight, on Thursday, October 23 the Wellness Foundation will host a free seminar with Chris Crowley, co-author of “Younger Next Year” at the East Hampton Middle School from 7 to 9 p.m. The Wellness Foundation will also unveil its new mission and initiatives designed to promote wellness for the body mind and spirit.
“The first three years we were mainly focused on nutrition,” explained Taylor. “What we found in our wellness circles were a lot of people caught up in issues like emotional eating, or those who needed to concentrate on fitness because of heart issues.”
And so the foundation decided to create an integrated program, incorporating stress management and fitness into the program’s well-established nutrition regimen.
Taylor explained that the Mercers began the foundation as Doug attempted to figure out what to do with the last third of his life. Already motivated by Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s “Eat to Live” – a book about healing disease through nutrition – Mercer was inspired by East Hampton Middle School’s Bonac on Board to Wellness program, which was started by health teacher Ginny Reale, school nurse Barbara Tracey and students who led literal protests for healthier foods in the cafeteria.
In what was an anonymous donation at the time, Mercer donated a refrigerator to the school to allow for more fresh fruits and vegetables to be kept on hand.
“He had already gone towards a more plant based diet,” said Taylor. “And he saw this need in his hometown.”
Â From there, the foundation quickly formed and blossomed, hosting its Wellness Circles with facilitators as a way of presenting literature and support on creating a healthier menu for life.
“When we first started out Doug was essentially running things by himself,” said Taylor. “We had one group that met in Montauk and one group in East Hampton. Now we have two groups in Montauk, two in East Hampton and one in Sag Harbor.”
The Wellness Circles will evolve in this new direction to incorporate nutrition, fitness and stress management, continuing with literature and resources focused on healthy eating habits, but adding exposure to practices like yoga and meditation.
“But we always liken it to a salad bar,” said Taylor. “People can pick and choose based on what works with their life and create their own wellness program.”
The foundation is also creating a new Wellness at Home program, said Taylor.
“For years we have had people buy the books and try the programs on their own,” said Taylor. “But we have had a big demand for an at home program.”
The Wellness at Home program will be run by Sag Harbor resident and senior associate Barbara Kinnier, who will help guide those working from home in the program. The Wellness Foundation’s website, www.wfeh.org, will also re-launch in its new format, designed to create an online community people can use as a wellness resource morning, noon or night.
Kinnier, whose own business Woman to Woman Wellness Studio in Sag Harbor is also focused on the health of spirit, mind and body, came to the Wellness Foundation as a student. After seeing the benefits of the program, Kinnier said she began bringing her own clients with her.
“I just got so excited because this is what I went to school for,” she said.
Certified as an American Medical Association drugless practitioner, Kinnier has been involved in fitness and nutrition for a number of years, starting one of the first Weight Watchers groups in Sag Harbor, and working as a trainer at the Sag Harbor Gym before branching out on her own.
“The more educated I became, the more I realized that you can diet and lose weight, but how you get there is just as important as the weight you are losing,” she said. “My big word is balance, and my tag line is strengthening a woman’s spirit, mind and body.”
Kinnier said her passion is to help women, and while she is able to do both in her private practice and in her work with the Wellness Foundation, she also finds volunteering for organizations like The Retreat, which aids victims of domestic violence, truly fulfilling.
This Saturday, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Kinnier will host an open house for $25, with 50 percent of the proceeds going to support The Retreat, at her Harborview Drive, Sag Harbor studio. Kinnier said the benefit is in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month and will feature exercise and smoothie demos, as well as nutritional information and raffles. She is also accepting used cell phones, which The Retreat will recycle and use.
“It’s about trying to be there for your community,” said Kinnier of her work. “It’s about trying to support your community.”