Profile of the Week: Strong Women

Strong Women

The primary objective of the StrongWomen™ Program is to help communities nationwide to implement safe and  effective strength training programs for midlife and older women.

Women begin to show decline in muscle mass beginning at age 30 and if this condition is not reversed, women will have reduced strength and other severe consequences as they age. Women need to maintain a healthy level of muscle mass at all ages for optimal health through weight lifting two or more times per week,  but only 17.5% of women meet these recommendations. The Strong Women program, developed by Tufts University, is designed for women to increase muscle strength by strength training for 2-3 sessions per week for fourteen weeks. This strength training program is now being offered through MSU Extension offices in Montana, and the results have been inspiring.  Participation, improved functional strength and balance, and a strong sense of camaraderie and achievement are positive outcomes for Montana’s rural women. These trainings are conducted by Extension educators who have been certified to teach Strong Women programs.

About Strong Women:
The StrongWomen™  program is an evidence-based strength training program developed by the staff of  the Hancock Center at the Friedman School at Tufts University. The primary objective of the StrongWomen™ Program is to help communities nationwide to implement safe and  effective strength training programs for midlife and older women.

Who should attend trainings:
* Professional and community leaders who are working with a non-profit and are interested in the fields of public health, nutrition and exercise or wellness should attend.

* Potential program leaders should be regularly lifting weights/strength training, be in good physical health, and be able to collaborate with local agencies or organizations to provide the Strong Women program in their community.


For a list of all locations and contact information, click here

shelby kids

Shelby Community Garden

City of Shelby and the Toole County Extension Office partnered to develop a community garden with the goal of increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables

In 2006, Shelby received a $4,000 planning grant from the Montana Nutrition and Physical Activity Program to Prevent Obesity and Other Chronic Diseases (NAPA), funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. NAPA’s four goals are to increase physical activity, increase fruit and vegetable consumption, increase breastfeeding. As a result of this grant the City of Shelby and the Toole County Extension Office partnered to develop a community garden with the goal of increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables.

The Community Garden is a long-term project. Last year another garden located near the Senior Center was added. This garden features raised beds to help make gardening more physically accessible for the Seniors. Students from the Afterschool and Summer program participate in a garden club. The students have a garden area that they care for during the summer. Curriculum is offered on both gardening and healthy eating by Extension Staff

The Community Garden has several partners that have been very supportive: Afterschool RECCS Program, Shelby Public School, City of Shelby, Toole County Extension Office, Master Gardeners, Toole County Conservation District, and Shelby Community Garden Committee.

The biggest factor for success of the garden was having the right combination of volunteers, donations, and funds. The Garden was very fortunate to have a retired farmer on the Garden Committee who installed the garden including rotilling irrigation, and installation of the fence and raised bed. The City of Shelby provided the site and water free of charge, the RECCS Afterschool program provided funding for the fence and garden tools. When the garden opened the first season all the potential gardeners had to provide was seed and a little hard work.

40 families have plots at the gardens. About half the plots are young families and the other half are older folks. The Afterschool program has 30 participants from K-6th grade that maintain a plot. The Shelby Elementary 4th graders maintain a plot of wheat at the Community Garden for a class project.

Shelby Community Garden President Zane Zell uses garden plots to demonstrate different gardening techniques such as square foot gardening and trellising to garden visitors. Next year the Community Garden will have a new feature. A green house is being installed as a result of a grant from the Conservation District.


Shape Up Shelby

“Shape up Shelby!” is the overarching initiative of Shelby’s health and wellness programs

Shelby is one of many communities throughout Montana that is working hard to increase the health and wellness of their residents. Leadership has been provided by Mayor Larry Bonderud, Marias Medical Center and many others in the community. Shelby uses many techniques to encourage healthy choices. For instance, by making their main street more attractive, residents are making efforts to encourage shoppers to walk, not drive. Shelby’s Safe Routes to School Project also sponsors a “Walk and Wheel Wednesdays” where around one hundred children may be seen walking to school. The class with the most children that walk to school that day earn a free roller skating party at the Shelby Recreation Center.

Many years ago, Shelby started gathering funds to renovate an old civic center, allowing the residents to now enjoy two cardio rooms and a weight room. Over the last three years, a recreation director has been hired to coordinate cardio and strength classes along with personal training sessions. The director also organizes annual runs such as Shelby’s hosted first annual Family Walk Run or Bike for Breast Cancer hosted in 2008. At the event, there were 55 registered walkers and runners.  It was a sunny, but chilly day and everyone seemed to enjoy the Roadrunner Recreation Trail.

Shelby used Nutrition and Physical Activity (NAPA)’s funding to focus in three specific areas: increase physical activity; increase the rate of breastfeeding infants; to encourage a “caloric balance”; and to increase fruit and vegetable consumption. Shelby’s long-term projects are listed below:

Healthy Food Choices:

A graduate student, who was supported by NAPA and Shelby, used the Nutrition and Environment Measures Survey (NEMS) to determine how easily healthy foods could be acquired. The survey found the availability of healthy foods to be very limited especially in local restaurants. Shelby is now working with restaurants and food distributors to include healthier choices on their menu. Once the healthy alternatives are added to the menus, Shelby hopes to launch a promotional campaign to encourage residents to choose the healthier items.

Increased use of the Walking Trail:

Shelby created a paved six-mile walking/rolling trail. The idea for the trail came from the residents of Shelby. Shelby’s residents wanted a fun, clean, and safe route to encourage walking and biking in the community. Once the trail was made, Shelby started making efforts to increase the trail’s use. Shelby conducted four triad interviews with children ages nine through twelve, and two triad interviews with parents of children eight years old and under. During the interviews, participants were asked to list both good and bad things associated with trail use. With the feedback received from the participants, NAPA teamed up with social marketing experts at the Academy of Educational development to create messages minimizing the community’s fear of trail use and emphasizing the benefits of trail use.

Support of Breastfeeding:

Each year about 50 births occur at the Marias Medical Center. Shelby has now teamed up with NAPA, the Marias Medical Center, and the Toole County Health Department to collect baseline data on breastfeeding. In the past, the county public health nurse makes a call to each new mother offering to share information and resources. The nurse now asks the mother questions about breastfeeding and enters the information in an online database. The county public nurse will repeat these calls quarterly to get long-term information about the frequency of breastfeeding in Shelby. This data can then be used to determine the best intervention to increase the prevalence of breast feeding.

Shape Up Shelby!  

“Shape up Shelby!” is the overarching initiative of Shelby’s health and wellness programs. Shelby has teamed up with Marias Medical Center to collect baseline data for 300 children and 650 adults. The data will include physical and obesity related behavior indicators. The measures will be repeated in two years. The data collected will be used to help determine the influences of the current initiatives, and establish future initiatives to increase the overall health and wellness of Shelby’s residents.

To read an article about Shelby from Northwest Public Health, click here

RHI’s 2013 Rural Health Success Story Contest Winner: Toole County’s Project Activate Program

THE PROBLEM ~ Physical frailty is a leading cause of premature disability and death among older adults and it’s preventable!

THE SOLUTION ~ Physical Activity can prevent physical frailty!

Kay Van Norman

A group of dedicated medical professionals, local government staff and interested citizens have initiated Project Activate- Toole County.  Project Activate is a community-wide initiative that challenges negative stereotype of aging and offers information and opportunities that support physical function and promote vitality through a full lifespan.  The program provides a way for communities to respond locally to the need for residents to improve health and retain vitality.

Shelby has been very proactive in initiating wellness programs within the community.  Area youth are encouraged to walk and bike to school through the Safe Route to School Program and take part in summer recreation activities.  The city has also worked diligently to complete the community’s 5.5 mile recreation trail; improve recreation/sports facilities; and engineer a more walkable/bikable community.  Healthy Toole County Coalition has sought policy change in nutrition, physical fitness and wellness issues within the county and worksite wellness programs have been encouraged.  Now, the community and county are addressing our older population by inspiring an ageless attitude through daily physical activity.

Comprised of the directors of the Marias Heritage Center Assisted Living; Toole County Health Department; Marias Medical Center Marketing, Education and Physical Therapy Departments; Toole County Extension Office; and City Community Development Office –  the Project Activate committee partnered with Project Activate creator, Kay Van Norman to initiate a 6-month pilot project in Shelby and Toole County.  A timeline was established to notify the public of the program and distribute a pre-survey to those interested; seek corporate sponsorship to fund the outreach program; initiate a site visit by project creator, Kay Van Norman to kick off the program; and follow up with educational resources and exercise opportunities.  At the end of the 6-month program a post-survey will then be taken to assess attitudes and behaviors related to aging and physical activity.

The kick- off meetings with Van Norman were held at multiple locations to reach the greater population.  Kay Van Norman, president of Brilliant Aging and creator of Project Activate is an internationally known writer, speaker and wellness consultant.  She brought great enthusiasm and energy to each session and offered a sampling of the resources and physical activities the program is suggesting.


Project Activate reaches out to the public with weekly exercise activity sheets distributed through the Senior Centers and Meals on Wheels Program; Marias Medical Center; Toole County Health Department; Marias Heritage Center; Crossroads Housing complex; City of Shelby; Town of Kevin and Town of Sunburst.  Project Activate program videos will also be presented in the upcoming months at Senior Centers and housing complexes.

In addition, low impact exercise classes are now offered twice weekly through the City of Shelby recreation department and a Fit Club has been established through the Marias Medical Center Physical Therapy Department.  Additional fitness sessions are also offered through the Marias Heritage Center and Crossroads Housing complex.

‰The Activity of the Week (AOW) series – Function based exercises available in full page format to post on bulletin boards, use as placemats in diners/congregate meals/Meals on Wheels or during home-care visits; and in a smaller format  that can be “dragged & dropped” into any existing newsletter or newspaper, used on  table tents, etc.

Project Activate- Toole County is activating an ageless attitude – inspiring daily activity and encouraging a more active lifestyle among our residents.

Submitted by Toole County's  Project Activate Program

End of the year Kid's Marathon celebration

Shelby Elementary Noon Fitness Program

Our program offers each student in the Shelby Elementary the opportunity each day to “walk and talk” or jog for a ten minute time period.   We do this each day, by grade level, just before the students go in to eat lunch.  This program works in partnership with our Safe Routes to School Program which extends the opportunity to walk or bicycle to school twice a week.

End of the year Kid's Marathon celebration

End of the year Kid’s Marathon celebration

This program was initiated by several teachers and myself in partnership with the Safe Routes to School Program in the hopes of establishing a life time habit of walking a little bit each and every day.   We also theorized that if the students had the opportunity to walk and visit or jog and release a bit of extra energy, perhaps they would be more inclined to sit down, eat, and visit quietly in the lunchroom.  We transitioned our program from a monthly prize incentive type program into an end of the year “Kids’ Marathon” celebration.  Using the premise that throughout the year each student easily walks 25.2 miles, at the end of the year our school staff and students jog/walk one mile to complete a marathon.  We invite community members to participate in the fun run and to join us in a barbeque lunch.  Our local volunteer fire department does the cooking; our law enforcement agencies block off the roads; our volunteer emergency medical services are present to ensure the safety (and visual support) of our students.  In the afternoon our students participate in a school-wide track and field day.  Through the generosity of local businesses, each student receives a t-shirt to wear during the fun run and to keep.

Zumba warm-up for the Kid's Marathon

Zumba warm-up for the Kid’s Marathon

As a school staff, we have noticed a quieter lunchroom.  Students have also developed  an awareness and have participated in other fun runs in our community and surrounding communities.  I feel a great part of our success in our noon walking program is associated with the very visible support of our Walking Wheels Wednesday and Fit Friday program–each program supports and reinforces the other! A big bonus has been that our health enhancement teacher has noticed much better improved times during the timed mile fitness run—not so much in the more fit students but in those students who, in the past may have struggled completing a mile.  We have seen smiles of accomplishment and more self-confidence in many of our students who may have felt that a mile was too great of a distance for them to complete!


For more information, please contact:

Donna Sparks, Shelby Elementary School Guidance Counselor

(406) 424-8910



Rural Health Success Story Contest 2012 Runner-up: Shelby Community Wellness

Shelby Community Wellness

For a rural community to survive there needs to be a willingness to invest in the future; to have a problem-solving approach to issues such as health and wellness; to be financially responsible for fiscal resources; and willingness to seek help from outside the community.

That is the philosophy that drives the community of Shelby in the health and wellness projects and programs initiated.  Through diligence and the forward-thinking of city and county leadership, numerous health initiatives have been instituted within the community.

Beginning with conversion of the Shelby Civic Center into a recreation and fitness facility, residents have been given the opportunity to exercise and recreate in an indoor facility including basketball court; racquetball courts; weight room; and fitness rooms. The city also set out to complete an urban trail system.  The community now boasts 5.6 miles of paved trail connecting schools, businesses; health facilities; residential neighborhoods; and recreational sites.  Funding for the trail has come from the commitment of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Urban Trail Grant funding; State of Montana CTEP funds; and the Montana Safe Routes to School program.  Improvements to the trail have come from community groups and individuals.  Signage, benches, pet stations; and most recently, exercise stations has greatly improved the rural portion of the trail system and encouraged the strong commitment of the community to wellness.

The City of Shelby also collaborated with School District #14; Toole County Sheriff’s Office; and Marias Medical Center to establish a Safe Routes to School Program encouraging our young people to get out and walk and bike to school more often and to do this safely.  Through SRTS grant funding, the city was able to improve numerous blocks of sidewalks along the corridors leading to the school complex as well as initiate a strong education and encouragement program.  The program has now expanded to include an indoor walking program at Shelby Elementary School and a Kid’s Marathon at the end of the school year.

The City of Shelby also initiated a community garden project committing public property and water to creation of a 20 + plot garden adjacent to a city park complex. Through Montana State Extension Services – Toole County Extension Office a garden committee was formed; materials and resources committed; and a strong volunteer effort put forth to create this beautiful neighborhood garden.  The Shelby Elementary After School Program – RECCS utilizes a portion of the garden as a learning and growing experience for the students and has now built a greenhouse on the site.  With the success of this first garden, a second garden has now been built near our Senior Center and elderly living complexes.

The City of Shelby has made a commitment to education in publicizing nutrition and physical activity articles in the bi-monthly newsletter.  Topics such as holiday fitness & nutrition; reducing screen time; 4 easy ways for summer fun; healthy eating styles; active lifestyle; and so many more interesting and educational topics give each household in Shelby the opportunity to learn and grow in their health and wellness.  The city also offers free day passes as part of the Shelby Area Chamber of Commerce coupon book in hopes of encouraging more residents to utilize our exercise and recreation facilities.  The city also rewards student efforts in the Safe Routes to School Program and Recycle Shelby with roller skating parties at the Shelby Civic Center and Shelby Swimming Pool passes.  The city feels rewarding children with fun physical activity encourages a healthy lifestyle.

The City of Shelby and Toole County have made a commitment toward wellness programs for the benefit of employees as well.  Promoting physical activity and other healthy behaviors among employees, the city and county believes wellness programs have affected cost savings in reduced absenteeism, increased productivity, increased staff morale and control of rising health insurance costs. The city offers free use of all city recreation facilities including the Shelby Swimming Pool and Shelby Civic Center to all employees and their families. Toole County has initiated several health/exercise challenges among employees offering incentives as well as reduced cost to utilize City of Shelby recreation/health facilities.  Both offer wellness screenings for all insured employees and family members as well.

Through the Toole County Health Department, the Healthy Toole County Coalition was formed to partner with area agencies; government entities; schools; businesses and individuals to promote; encourage; and affect wellness initiatives within our community.  Through organizational members the two community gardens were constructed; a gardening program developed for the after-school program; healthier menus initiated within School District #14; a renewal of the annual health fair; several fun runs and exercise events initiated; education and encouragement literature included in all city newsletters; and now, a follow-up to the 2008 obesity study conducted in Shelby in partnership with the MSU Nutrition and Physical Activity Program (NAPA).

All these efforts have been a willingness to invest in Shelby’s future; to be problem-solving; to be financially responsible; and to seek help through grant funding, technical assistance; and resources beyond our means.  The statement of Margaret Mead speaks to the efforts of the community of Shelby.


 “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead

Health Fair Poster

Shelby Health Fair: October 12, 2012

Shelby, MT is hosting its annual Health Fair – October 12, 2012

7am – 2pm at the Shelby Civic Center

“Follow the Trail to Good Health” to the 2012 Shelby Health Fair. The health fair is sponsored by the Toole County Health Foundation and partners with the Marias Medical Center in Shelby, Montana. It offers preventive healthcare to promote a healthier community.

Click here to view or print a PDF version of the Health Fair Poster

List of Booth Vendors:

  • MMC Radiology
  • MMC Auxiliary
  • Shelby Community Garden
  • Defibrillator/Trauma Prevention
  • Center for Mental Health
  • MSU Extension-Toole County
  • Bowenwork with Marla Hasquet
  • Toole County Health Foundation
  • Northern Montana Insurance
  • Blue Cross/Blue Shield
  • Shelby Civic Center
  • Narcotics Anonymous
  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Gateway Recovery
  • Al-Anon
  • PrimeVest Financial
  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Marias Care Center
  • Meals on Wheels
  • Toole County Sheriff Department
  • Sleep Disorders & Treatment
  • doTerra Essential Oils
  • CASA
  • MMC Trauma Committee – distracted driving course
  • Northtown Drug – “Dispose My Meds” safety disposal program
  • Youth Dynamics
  • American Red Cross
  • Marias Healthcare Dental -Bryan Haight, D.D.S.
  • Blood Pressure Checks
  • Montana Cancer Control Programs
  • “Buckle -Up Montana”
  • Montana Tobacco Use Prevention Program
  • Shelby Chiropractic – Free Posture & Fibromyalgia Screenings
  • Toole County Health Department
  • MMC Rehabilitation Department
  • MMC Respiratory Department – Free Spirometry for detection of breathing disorders
  • Arbor reflexology
  • Healthy Montana Kids – Low Cost Health Coverage
  • Kalispell Regional Medical Center
  • North Central Montana Area Health Education Center
  • MMC Infection Control – Immunization Education
  • Kennedy Counseling
  • MMC Social Services – Advance Directives
  • Family Heritage Insurance
  • Montana Long Term Care Ombusman Program
  • Bio Tune-Up
  • Nutrition Education withCarolyn Wendell
  • Foot Care
  • Hi-Line’s Help for Abused Spouses
  • Hearing Aide Institute -free hearing screenings & video Otoscope
  • Marias Heritage Center


For more information, visit the Marias Medical Center’s website at, or contact:

Jessica Brusven
Marias Medical Center Marketing Director &
Toole County Health Foundation Director

Toole County Wellness Program & Health Fair

Toole County Health Foundation

“Trails to Good Health” Toole County Wellness Program


TCHF Health Fair

Toole County’s Employee Wellness Program “Trails to Good Health”

  • The Wellness Program had over 70 participants
  • 12 Teams were created
  • 14 Week Walking Program; Memorial Day through Labor Day
  • Participants tracked miles walked with pedometers
  • Funds from RHI Incubator grant used to pay for incentives

How The Teams Were Rewarded:

Top team- Each member received $20 in Shelby Bucks

  • The “Blood, Sweat and Radiation” team logged an average of 615.28 total miles!

Second place team – Each member received $15 in  Shelby Bucks

  • The “Solely for Fun” team logged an average of 486.77 miles!

Third place team – Each member received $10 in Shelby Bucks

  • The “Heritage Center” logged an average of 481.54 miles!

Toole County Health Foundation Health Fair:

Health Fair held October 14, 2011

  • Free admission
  • Reduced costs for lab tests and flu shots
  • Noon “talks” by local physicians
  • 53 Booths
  • Free screenings of various kinds
  • Free transportation
  • Over 150 adults and over 100 students in attendance

RHI Incubator grant was used to purchase a Juice Machine for a door prize and manicure sets for each visitor.

“Trails to Good Health” 2012 Events:

  • Continuing on the “Trail to Good Health”
  • Valentine’s Day through April 1, 2012
    • “Heart Healthy” Calendar Challenge
  • Summer Walking/Fitness Program
  • 2012 Health Fair, October 12th

For more information please contact:

Jessica Brusven, Toole County Health Foundation Director


Walk with Mayor & Sheriff 9-10

Rural Health Success Story Contest 2011 Winner: Shelby, Montana

City of Shelby, Montana

“Today, more than ever, there is a need to provide opportunities for children to walk and bicycle to school safely.  Many rural communities like Shelby struggle with inadequate sidewalks and walkways; traffic congestion around schools; and for Shelby, a railway that dissects the community.


The mission of the City of Shelby was to first, provide safe pathways within the community. The City sought funding to establish a walking/biking path within the community.  Through Community Transportation Enhancement Program funding, the City was able to complete a portion along the route near the school campus.  The City also received Safe Routes to School infrastructure funding to complete sidewalks along the arterial streets leading to the campus.

The City of Shelby created a partnership with School District #14, Toole County Sheriff’s Office and Marias Medical Center to establish the Shelby/School District #14 Safe Routes to School Program.   Through this partnership a walking program was established.  Shelby offers Walk n’ Wheel Wednesdays and Fit Fridays for students walking and biking to school.  Adults from within the community lead walking school buses giving students the opportunity for physical activity while giving parents an assurance of adult supervision.

At the same time, school officials created an indoor walking program.  As part of their school day, students walk/run in the gym prior to lunch.  The mileage is tracked with the students virtually walking around the perimeter of the United States.  The children are awarded prizes as they meet mileage goals. Most importantly, teachers and staff have noticed a marked increase in positive behavior in the lunch room; meals are less wasted; and students seem to be responding positively with classroom attentiveness and behavior.

The Safe Routes to School Program has also targeted enforcement in a unique way.  As part of awareness for drivers, the Task Force has partnered with the Toole County Sheriff’s Office and Main Street Convenience Store to offer a free cup of coffee.  Toole County Sheriff’s Officers are “armed” with coffee cards compliments of a local retailer.  When they see a driver doing something “right” they might stop them and give them a card for a free cup of coffee.  Maybe a driver stopped for kids in a crosswalk; they paid special attention to kids biking along the streets leading to the school campus; they were cautious in school zones;  they made a special effort to be an aware and attentive drive…making it safer for our kids to walk and bike to school.

With the Safe Routes to School Program and infrastructure improvements made the city is moving forward in its mission and goal to make Shelby safer and healthier for all, now and for generations to come.”

 Submitted By:

Lorette Carter

Community Economic Development Director

City of Shelby