For the past decade, the Maple Center in Terre Haute, Indiana has been inspiring their community to make healthier lifestyle choices. The Maple Center is a nonprofit integrative health education center that offers classes and workshops in mind, body, and spirit to optimize wellness. The Center is fueled by 12 highly motivated volunteers with a mission to improve the health of people living in the area.
The story begins in 2009, when the Maple Center’s medical director, Dr. Kathleen Stienstra, learned about Dean Ornish’s work in reversing heart disease. She was so compelled by the data coming from Ornish’s work that she decided to train a team of volunteers to become “train-the-trainers” in Dr. Hans Diehl’s original Coronary Health Improvement Program (CHIP), which was an intensive eight-week program that met two times per week.
During the next three and a half years, the Maple Center touched the lives of over 300 people by exposing them to the concept of plant-based nutrition. Unfortunately, CHIP was too labor intensive and expensive for most participants, so the Maple Center developed their own lifestyle intervention program, LEAF (Lifestyle, Education, and Food). LEAF was also an eight-week program, but only met once a week. The Center was able to secure community support through grants to provide scholarships for qualifying participants, but this program still required a sizable volunteer team and extensive funding to run.
In 2015, six of the leadership team volunteers went to Indianapolis to see the documentary film PlantPure Nation. Not only did they get to meet Nelson and Kim Campbell, but they were convinced that the Jumpstarts demonstrated in the film would be a perfect fit for the Maple Center. The team decided to bring PlantPure Nation to Terre Haute, where it was viewed by over 300 people in a historic theater.
The team was hopeful that the Jumpstart program would attract a different demographic due to its 10-day length and programming. They liked the concept of having meals provided, as food preparation was the main stumbling block for most participants. Participants enjoyed the short daily videos sent via email and found them motivating and easy to watch. The Maple Center also added an important twist by including a 90-minute kick-off with Dr. Stienstra and the team at the start of the Jumpstart and then a celebratory dinner on the last day. The goal was to create a sense of community during the Jumpstart that would assist participants in making this new way of eating a lifestyle.
To date, the Maple Center has run three Jumpstarts with amazing success. One participant dropped their total cholesterol by 59 points, LDL by 41 points, and triglycerides by 74 points. Another participant lost 13 lbs. The Maple Center’s next Jumpstart is planned for June of this year. The effect this organization has had on their community is very motivating because it helps all of us realize the power we have to positively affect our own communities.