March 31, 2002 11:00 pm

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

UNION Long before there was a health clinic building in Union, there was a Community Wellness Committee.

Started in late 1994, this group of community volunteers and representatives from hospitals and agencies began meeting. Their goal was to stay in touch with community health needs and concerns, and utilize resources to bring programs and clinics to the countys smaller towns rather than always having people drive into La Grande.

The wellness committee brings the needs of the community to attention, and then we figure out how to get the resources, explains Sue Peeples, family nurse practitioner at the Union Family Health Clinic.

Jessie Jones of Union, an original member of the committee, stays involved for two reasons. Shes a senior citizen and sees the needs of that groups, and shes a grandmother and sees that the community needs something more to keep young teens involved.

Busy hands are usually never into mischief, Jones notes, talking about past efforts to involve young people in helping out seniors keeping both groups healthier.

Through the past seven years, the committee has worked on smoking-cessation sessions, a fifth-grade health club, depression and anxiety screenings, a 4-H health club, cholesterol education, heart-health programs, low-fat cooking classes and more.

The cost of the classes, workshops, presentations or screening clinics has often been extremely low or even free, Peeples said, because members of the wellness committee pitch in to help.

For cooking classes, she said, samples have been prepared by committee members and recipes have been tested by others. Costs have been kept low, because committee members volunteered.

For Jones, being a volunteer was already established long ago. Jones began helping out at the seniors foot clinic 16 years ago, and the wellness committee dovetailed with her interests and beliefs.

Now, though, the wellness committee needs help, Peeples and Jones said.

See CLINIC, Page 3A