Just over four years ago, the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Central Oregon and promptly shut down St. Charles' robust, region-wide community outreach and educational efforts.

Now, the health system's calendar of classes, events and other gatherings is getting busier, with more on the horizon, said Carlos Salcedo, manager of community partnerships for St. Charles' Community Benefit department.

"It has taken a lot of work, a lot of coordination and a lot of patience, but we're ramping back up and we're going to be ramping up even more," he said. "We really appreciate the partnerships and the collaboration with the public health agencies, nonprofit organizations and the citizen groups in the communities we serve."

Over the past year or so, Salcedo and his team have spent time in each of the region's smaller towns — La Pine, Madras, Prineville, Redmond and Sisters — reconnecting with individuals and groups and talking with them about their local health and wellness needs and goals and how St. Charles can help achieve them. Last year, those efforts took root in Sisters, where the health system partnered with the Sisters Park & Recreation District to stage Heart Health 101 classes at Coffield Community Center.

This year, the La Pine Activity Center has embraced a partnership with St. Charles and hosted a number of different events, including classes on heart health, basic wound care, fall prevention, stroke recognition, end-of-life care planning and common home safety improvements. And in Prineville, the nonprofit group Crook County on the Move — which has worked closely with St. Charles for many years — has helped coordinate stroke recognition education, grief support groups and healthy cooking classes.

Each of these events are led by experts from the health system, but engaging with individuals local to each community is vital and a key step to a successful program, Salcedo said.

"It’s really about empowering communities and making sure they have a role in what happens where they live," he said. "They know their population and their needs the best. We're just here to work with them to meet those needs."

Community Benefit is not the only St. Charles department involved in more in-person gatherings. The health system's Trauma Program recently hosted free Stop the Bleed classes and held its annual Trauma Survivor Day event. Bariatric support groups are meeting in Redmond and Bend. In Prineville, the Hospice and Bereavement team leads guided walks for people experiencing grief. And the Bend Family Birthing Center hosts breastfeeding education classes and recently relaunched free tours of the FBC and childbirth education classes. (The Madras Family Birthing Center also offers tours; give them a call to schedule one.)

The goals for St. Charles: To be a good community partner, to provide educational opportunities for local people and to help make Central Oregon a healthier place. And as a bonus, bringing people together also aligns with the health system's Community Benefit priority for the next three years: reducing feelings of loneliness and social isolation while fostering a sense of belonging in the communities we serve.

"Part of our effort to make Central Oregon a healthier place is creating opportunities for connection," Salcedo said. "We know that loneliness and isolation are root causes of a number of different health problems and societal problems, so any time we can help and support people coming together to find connection in their community, that's a good thing."

To stay up to date with St. Charles’ offerings, visit our Classes & Events calendar. For La Pine events, visit the La Pine Activity Center’s website. In Sisters, check out the Sisters Park & Recreation District. And in Prineville, connect with Crook County on the Move.

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