MANASSAS, Va. – The House of Mercy, a faith-based local nonprofit humanitarian organization serving the poor and hungry, is holding two free ongoing health-related classes beginning in April for its clients and anyone else who wishes to participate.
The one-hour classes are part of a “health literacy” focus this spring by the agency, said House of Mercy Acting Director Ann Cimini. “We are pushing empowerment and health for our clients and the community,” she said. Both classes will be held at the House of Mercy, which is located at 8170 Flannery Court in Manassas.
Beginning April 2, Sandra Braxton, a certified professional fitness trainer, will conduct an outdoor exercise class every Monday and Wednesday at 10 a.m. “This helps our clients, especially those who are at health risk, get the health literacy message … while making them feel better physically and emotionally,” Cimini said.
Also, every other week beginning April 3 the organization will hold a class on the signs and symptoms of pre-diabetes and how food affects the condition. “For some time, I have advocated helping our clients develop healthy eating habits,” Cimini said.
Local registered nurse Catherine Camarca will instruct the class. “She heard about our organization and the work we do to help those in need and came forward,” Cimini said. “Catherine explains in an interesting and fun way how the pancreas works with sugar and insulin and how it may create pre-diabetes in some people. She is engaging and explains the digestion process in simple terms that people can understand. She dives into prevention and taking control of our choices.”
The class schedule will vary based on Camarca’s availability, Cimini said. Attending at least one of the classes on pre-diabetes is required for the organization’s clients, who receive free food and clothing from the House of Mercy through its food pantry and thrift store.
Cimini said that helping those House of Mercy serves to eat healthier can be a challenge. “Our clients have limited incomes. They try to stretch that money as best they can by buying the least expensive and most filling foods available to them,” she said. “Unfortunately, that usually means high-fat, high-sugar foods, which are inexpensive and have a long shelf life, but are comprised mostly of carbohydrates. When that is the only food you’re getting, it isn’t healthful.”
Additionally, House of Mercy’s clientele consists predominantly of ethnicities that statistically have a predisposition to diabetes, Cimini said. “Couple that with the food choices they feel they must make, and it’s an alarming situation,” she said.
In concert with the class, House of Mercy also will begin offering “Better Choice” food bags in early April to the organization’s clients who sign up during a pre-diabetes class to receive the bags, Cimini said. The bags will include foods consisting of whole grains and low-sugar content substitutes instead of refined flour products.
She asked local residents, groups and businesses to help provide the bags’ contents. “We would appreciate donations of healthful food, such as protein, whole-grain pastas and low-sugar pasta sauce, for our clients who may be at health risk,” said Cimini.
For more information about House of Mercy’s classes or on food donations needed, call 703-659-1636 or email [email protected].