Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

Writer is praised as a pioneer at Fallbrook's new wellness center

Tim O'Leary

Special to the Village News

I rarely consider myself a pioneer, but recently I was praised as one and I have three certificates to prove it. For my volunteer work with Fallbrook Regional Health District's Wellness Center, I received a certificate of recognition signed by state Assemblymember Marie Waldron, which said, "In honor and gratitude of your commitment to providing quality health education and services ..."

A certificate of commendation signed by Jim Desmond, the local representative on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, praised my "... steadfast commitment and dedication to the betterment of the community of Fallbrook ..."

A certificate of recognition signed by state Sen. Brian W. Jones underscored my "... outstanding efforts at building community wellness through education and services ..."

I was trying to get a cockamamie karate course I created off the ground: Fun Fu.

It's a proprietary self-protection program created after years of studying martial arts and the means and prevalence of violence in America today. My goal is to teach – along with playing pickleball and my other time-wasting activities – a crash course in self protection and situational awareness.

My belief is that such skills are of a benefit to most folks, and they can learn the basics without all the rigamarole of uniforms, colored belts, bruises, testing and tournaments. The classes are designed as fun-filled workouts punctuated by snippets of Eastern and Western philosophies.

It was offered at the Fallbrook Senior Center. Initially, there was a flurry of interest for my free course, and 12 people showed up for my first class. Interest, however, waned until the eight-week class wobbled to a close with a mere three die-hard souls.

In my defense, the dropouts said they were too busy to practice, the classes were offered at a bad time or they were too worried about losing their balance and tipping over.

The course was next offered to the community at large at the Wellness Center.

The 4.5-acre center is the brainchild of the Fallbrook Regional Health District, which was formed in 1950 to build and operate a community hospital. It is one of 3,400 special tax districts in California, and it serves a 110.5-square-mile area that takes in Fallbrook, Rainbow, Bonsall and De Luz.

An array of financial difficulties and competition from large health care complexes led to the hospital's demise in 2015. The hospital building and grounds were later sold to a company that provides in-patient behavioral health services.

To continue its mission of health promotion and disease prevention, the district spent $1.8 million in 2018 to purchase the former St. Stephen's Lutheran Church campus. The church congregation folded long ago, and the district is making use of its former classrooms, fellowship hall, sanctuary, three-bedroom house, shade structure and open space.

I first became acquainted with the Wellness Center when I attended separate multi-week workshops there. The initial workshop explored the lasting impacts of COVID-19. The second workshop examined personal boundaries.

More recently, I've been participating in a bereavement group that is offered by Hospice of the Valleys, a more then 40-year-old nonprofit based in Murrieta. I've also taken part in some events sponsored by Michelle's Place Cancer Resource Center founded in the Temecula area in 2001.

District officials were amenable to my switching Fun Fu to the Wellness Center. They said I could use a classroom for free if I did not charge students to attend the sessions.

I took out ads in the newspaper, and interest grew slowly. I graduated three students that session.

I didn't proceed with a second round of classes, opting to recover as much of my $1,000 liability insurance premium as possible. I was left licking my wounds, wondering whether I should blame the misfire on myself, the material or a busy or apathetic public.

So it was, amid all the confusion, that I attended the Friday, Dec. 8, appreciation lunch that the district sponsored to honor the "pioneer" programs and classes that have utilized the facility in its first full year of operations.

In that period, more that 11,000 people have visited for one service or another. More than 1,100 events or offerings have occurred. Nearly 500 people have received free health screenings or education. About 60 community clubs or organizations have offered services.


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