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Fort Drum’s Army Wellness Center team is busier than ever these days. Even though their facility is closed during the coronavirus pandemic, the health educators have become a virtual support staff for community members. (Photo by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)


Fun, informative videos, virtual connections help AWC team support community through pandemic


Mike Strasser

Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs


FORT DRUM, N.Y. (April 6, 2020) – It seems that Fort Drum’s Army Wellness Center team is busier than ever these days. Even though their facility is closed during the coronavirus pandemic, the health educators have become a virtual support staff for community members.

Jody Hanson, AWC health educator, said that the biggest adjustment was simply not being able to meet with clients anymore, since the services that most people seek require in-person testing (BodPod, metabolic and fitness assessments, etc.) and consultations. Moving forward, she said that the team had to think outside the box on how to provide continuity of service.

“We wanted to focus on our main job title as ‘health educators.’ Even though we can’t offer some of those specific services, we can still educate others to help them improve their health,” Hanson said.

They decided to post instructional videos and offer livestreaming classes, both available on their Facebook page. Hanson volunteered to kick things off with the first relaxation technique video. She said that stress and anxiety are common in everyday life, but the uncertainty arising from a global pandemic can exacerbate a person’s state of mind.

“By offering these relaxation techniques in the morning, we hope it helps people start their day with a calmer, clearer mind,” Hanson said.

Hanson also introduced the first “Cooking at Home with AWC” segment, an idea she had after her first couple of days working from home.

“I started thinking about what our clients might struggle with during this time of staying at home,” she said. “I know the main thing I struggle with – and my clients have often said – is the tendency to snack more while at home. So, I decided to create a cooking video that people could try at home to stay on track with healthy eating habits.”

Hanson said that she has experimented with creating and editing videos before, and that she enjoys learning how to improve this skill.

“In the beginning when I first started making them, it took me a while to learn how to do it,” she said. “I’m not very tech savvy. But the more I do it, the more I learn and make little improvements.”

Hanson shared a pumpkin oatmeal energy balls recipe, because she said they are quick and easy to make. It also invites creativity when there are limitless options for substitutions of ingredients based on people’s tastes.

“I’ve made them with vanilla protein powder; I’ve also added dates instead of peanut butter,” Hanson said. “So there are a lot of variations you can do with it. You can also use different spices to give them a cinnamon or gingerbread flavor.”

Since then, other team members have taking turns with the weekly recipes. Tom Coloney invited viewers into his kitchen as he demonstrated how to make protein pancakes for breakfast. His dogs made a cameo in the video as well.

“Yes, my dogs do love that I’m home during the day,” he said.

Coloney said that the AWC team is finding ways to connect with their clients to provide continuity to their health goals.

“We can do an estimated RMR (resting metabolic rate) test to determine caloric intake, exercise prescription for those wishing to do more exercise at home, as well as individual stress management training to improve one’s mental wellness,” he said.

Viewers who watched Coloney cook up the healthy pancakes may have noticed the video had a musical “Cooking at Home” ending. That was Jackie Mewha, AWC health technician, lending her vocals.

“It was definitely random, but we have to keep it light and fun around here,” she said. “When Jody posted the first Cooking at Home video, I made a comment on how it needed a jingle for it to be complete. She said ‘Do it!’ and so I did.”

Mewha gave the jingle another try as an intro to her own cooking segment – an Instapot chicken fajita rice recipe.

“That was really fun and different because I’m not usually the one creating content or coaching,” she said. “But it’s really cool to see all of us come together to create new content to engage our community.”

Mewha manages the AWC social media pages, so that has preoccupied a lot of her time during the pandemic. She starts the day by reading emails from clients, then monitors the daily livestreams for comments from viewers and records their attendance. Afterward, Mewha responds to clients who have requested more resources and materials from the classes.

“I feel like the livestreams are going very well,” she said. “I’m so proud of the health educators – they can do these classes in their sleep. They seriously amaze me how well they’ve adapted to going online.”

She said that transitioning to virtual services has made a difference even outside the Fort Drum community. Mewha said that her aunt, a pediatric nurse in Philadelphia, reposted one of the AWC relaxation videos that has helped her get into the right headspace in the morning before work.

“She urged her fellow health care workers to partake in our calming videos,” she said.

Amy Ingersoll said that people can find the classes and online instruction useful, given the circumstances they are facing during the pandemic.

“For example, everybody has stress,” she said. “But our stressors may be very different right now than what our typical stressors would be. We want to focus on what might help with stress now, but also get clients to think about how this stress may change when we get back in the regular swing of things.”

Ingersoll said that going totally virtual has been an interesting development for the entire staff.

“I am feeling OK about being an online instructor,” she said. “I’ve taught these classes so many times, but it still has a different effect teaching with just my computer in front of me.”

Like Ingersoll, Kale Panetti said that he craves the classroom interaction, so the challenge has been trying to create engagement on a digital platform.

“I usually try to get a dialogue going in class, but that’s not as easy in virtual classes,” he said. “So that’s been an adjustment.”

Panetti said there are perks to teleworking – he enjoys a morning cup of coffee with his wife before their children invade the kitchen. He’s also saving hundreds of dollars in gas expenses.

He said that the AWC team remains a tight-knit group and they have ongoing group texts and daily video chats. He said that he looks forward to meeting community members again in person.

“I miss my clients and the one-on-one engagements, but we are making the most of this situation, for sure,” Panetti said.

Mewha said she understands that many clients will wait until the facility reopens so they can resume their normal testing, but she encourages more people to try the virtual health coaching, exercise prescription, and estimated metabolic rates.

“We can help answer any questions our clients have and provide suggestions to overcome any obstacles this pandemic has created,” she said.

They may not become the next wave of social media influencers, but the AWC staff members are getting used to their new roles as online content creators.

“Since this is still new to us, we are definitely trying to improve any way we can to help others,” Hanson said. “We feel like we hit the ground running by offering virtual information, and we want to continue that momentum.”

To schedule an appointment, or for more information, email To keep informed about online classes and new instructional videos, visit


AWC health educators shared some tips for staying healthy during the pandemic, which can be viewed HERE.


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