“How can this be true! How can Reading, PA, our community, here in the most advantaged country in the World be facing a health crisis? Rampant diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, food insecurity, poor nutrition. Fifty four years after U.S. President Johnson declared War-on-Poverty, 40% of our residents are still living at or below the poverty level, many food insecure. There are many well-intentioned people talking about this. But let’s face it. We’re just ‘kicking the can down the road’. How can this be happening here in America, in our city, in our neighborhoods?"

Those were the sentiments expressed in August, 2015 by Penn State Berks Business Faculty member, James Shankweiler as he searched for community projects in which to engage his Fall Semester students.  In his search, he came across the Community Health Needs Assessment (2013), a federally mandated assessment of our Community’s state of community health   The assessment revealed troubling facts about our community; many are not healthy.  In fact, significant percentages of the population have life threatening conditions that are linked to poor nutrition and inadequate physical activity.

The spirit for community-engagement, social entrepreneurship, and a “WE MUST CHANGE THIS” commitment took hold.  “To those who want to change the world, let’s start right here – 10 square miles, population 88 thousand people – Reading, PA”, was Jim Shankweiler’s Call for Action.

Jim, with his students’ support, launched Be Bold Take Charge, a volunteer organization taking on the mission of improving health in Reading by improving nutrition and increasing physical activity.  The name itself is meant to rally and empower Reading’s residents, institutions, business community and numerous other stakeholders to get this job done. Focus Group discoveries revealed that the underlying root causes of poor nutrition and inadequate physical activity cut across many social domains – economy, crime, education, psychology, food logistics (or lack thereof).

Be Bold Take Charge is harnessing the power of business – discovery, creativity, entrepreneurship, planning, coordination, implementation, measurement, team development, as the backbone for its areas of action.  There is critically  important work to be done collectively, regardless of one’s discipline, experience, and personal areas of interest.  It doesn’t matter whether a butcher, baker, or candle stick maker, student, city resident, rich or poor, part of one ethic group or another.  Under the Be Bold Take Charge banner, we’ll pool our energies. Our diversity will make us all the more effective.  Our city must grow, will grow and prosper through our work.

You can join one of our projects already in planning or one that’s already underway.  Or, if you have your own ideas for changing the world [beginning with the 10 square miles of Greater Reading] that align with ours, we’ll work closely with you to shape a connection between your interests and Be Bold strategies.    Some projects can be very simple, done in a day or two, and some will be more complex, bold, and transformative.  Whatever the case, it will be impactful, fun, rewarding, brave work where you’re helping your neighbors while enriching your own life and building your own skill sets for change.

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