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Living Hope Empowerment Center: A Valuable Partner in Keeping Kids Healthy

September 21, 2014 | Community News, Trenton

Living Hope empowerment centerFocused on youth, healthy living and community development, the Living Hope Empowerment Center (LHEC) is a faith-based community development corporation empowering residents of Trenton towards self-sufficiency and economic independence.

Led by executive director Francis Blanco, LHEC has been instrumental in several partnership initiatives, spearheading healthy corner stores and advocating for broader policy and planning approaches to promote healthy communities. Blanco has been the co-chair of the Access to Healthy Foods work group for the past two years and is now the chair of the Trenton Healthy Food Network.

”Francis Blanco is an avid supporter of NJPHK-Trenton and incorporates our goals into the mission of Living Hope Empowerment Center, an organization that is doing some amazing things in the areas of health and wellness,” said Marissa Davis, New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Trenton (NJPHK-Trenton) project manager.

Blanco joined LHEC in 2010 when the organization, founded by Living Hope Church pastors, went into full operational mode. She brings an impressive background in community economic development, and has served as director of the State Division of Minority and Women Business Development; director of the Department of Recreation, Natural Resources, and Culture for the city of Trenton; and executive director of Mercer County Hispanic Association (MECHA), a non-profit community-based agency dedicated to the needs of Mercer County’s Latino community.

LHEC’s focus on youth is about academic enrichment, life and character skills development and recreational socialization. Blanco said, “Developing the individual as a whole is critical, especially for inner city kids who may not have other resources or any wrap-around support systems and exposure to help them make it.”

LHEC’s Youth Soccer League, which has 240 attendees from age 4 to 12, gets kids involved, and in the process helps them build positive life skills and character as they practice team work, responsibility and sportsmanship.

The LHEC healthy living initiative has an ultimate goal of obesity prevention, with an immediate focus on cardiovascular health and maintenance of chronic disease. Given the state of health in the community, Blanco observed that “We have to get the community to the point where they can maintain their chronic disease before they work on prevention.” LHEC’s service delivery embraces the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 recommendations: get active, control cholesterol, eat better, manage blood pressure, lose weight, reduce blood sugar, and stop smoking.

“We’re carrying these messages to all age groups,” Blanco noted, “and achieving considerable success.”

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