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Editorial: Leise helps Red Wing 'live healthy'

What makes a community healthy?

Quality health care, naturally. Good schools and a strong faith community, of course.

Access to services. A solid and broad-based economy. Acceptance and encouragement of diversity. Safety. A clean environment. Opportunities.

Oh, yes, and good neighbors.

Michelle Leise is one.

She is the part-time coordinator for Live Healthy Red Wing, a cross-section of leaders representing business, school, government, non-profit organizations and more. Kicking into full gear in 2010, the group outlined initiatives for two years. Success led to extending the organization at least through 2012 and 2013.

Leise is a big reason for that success. As board member Pam Horlitz puts it: "We needed someone who woke up and thought of what they could do today to make healthy living easier for Red Wing. There were four people at the table who said, 'Let's get Michelle.'"

They did, and the program took off. The projects to date include:

• The Billings-Tomfohr Conservation Area trail.

• Edible gardens at Burnside Elementary School and His Kids Childcare.

• Healthy Food for Kids and the beginning of the Hunger-free Kids Network, working with Econofoods to provide close-dated produce free daily to high school students.

• Friends of the Bluffs, a new organization formed to increase the enjoyment, promotion and stewardship of Red Wing's bluffs.

• Red Wing App, a tablet application that combines outdoor, cultural and shopping assets.

• Safer streets for walking and biking. This includes assisting with Red Wing's Bike-Pedestrian Master Plan and securing a state Safe Routes to School grant.

• Restoration of Memorial Park.

Leise played an integral role in every project. Live Healthy Red Wing pays for a few hours of her time a week, and the rest she gives. And gives. She also serves on various foundations and school committees.

These are some of the reasons Kiwanians named her the 2012 Red Wing Neighbor. Thanks to Leise and those like her, our community is a healthy place.