The Well Connected Communities Grant will help build Extension’s capacity and reach

Two children waving hands in front of sunset over lake

Well Connected Communites Logo for public healthThe University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension has received a two-year, $65,000 grant from the National 4-H Council to address pressing public health concerns in New Hampshire. This funding comes from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The Well Connected Communities (WCC) Grant will assist staff in creating a systems approach to health programming with a focus on food access in Coös County, food access/food-related health disparities in Strafford County and substance misuse and prevention in Sullivan County.

Three community coalitions in these counties will work through a facilitative process to create an action plan. Important to this process is the engagement of youth working equally with adults.

Extension Field Specialist Heidi W. Barker is serving as the principal investigator (PI) and project manager for the grant. “UNH Extension sees the WCC project as a way to meaningfully build capacity in the areas of a community engagement, youth-adult partnerships and health-oriented volunteer development,” said Barker.

Health programming will be unique to each community and will be determined based on the Community Change Cycle.  

Engaging Youth in Public Health Conversations

The New Hampshire 4-H program has recently developed a network of civic engagement youth leadership teams across the state, has sent teams to the last three National 4-H Summit for Healthy Living events and has a long history of successful youth-adult partnerships. However, this grant will help create more consistent opportunities for youth by establishing a coalition-driven framework for Healthy Living.

Building Volunteer Capacity

While Extension’s Healthy Living programs have for many years utilized the volunteer help of community partners, they have yet to develop a systematic and complete volunteer development program designed to recruit, enroll, train, support and recognize volunteer leaders. The WCC grant will support development of a more robust system for health-oriented volunteers.

About Well Connected Communities

America’s Cooperative Extension System, in partnership with the National 4-H Council, is equipping volunteer leaders to help their neighbors be healthier at every stage of life. With the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the nation’s largest philanthropy dedicated solely to health, these communities are cultivating wellness and fostering a Culture of Health in America.

UNH WCC Staffing Plan

PI/Project Manager

  • Oversee the overall program leadership, planning, and implementation

Heidi Barker, M.Ed. Extension Specialist–Community Health Food Access, Collective Impact, Nutrition and Health Education


  • Support PI with program design, staff management, and budget oversight

Mike Young, Ph.D. Extension Youth & Family Program Leader Project Management, Grant Management, Positive Youth Development

Master Wellness Volunteer Program Manager

  • Coordinate screening of new volunteers, facilitate online training of volunteers using MWV curriculum, track volunteer enrollment and training

Rebecca Betts, M.Ed. Extension Specialist–Healthy Living Nutrition and Health Education

Community Site Staff

  • Lead WCC project with local coalitions
  • Help recruit additional cross-sector coalition members
  • Facilitate coalition meetings focused on WCC Change Cycle and action plan(s)
  • Identify coalition needs and facilitate additional Extension resources as needed
  • Recruit adult MWV candidates; help identify and meettraining needs for Master Wellness Program
  • Communicate directly with Project Manager
  • Assist with reporting and evaluation for community site

Heidi Barker, M.Ed. (Coös County) Extension Specialist–Community Health Food Access, Collective Impact, Nutrition and Health Education

Gail Kennedy, MSW (Sullivan County) Extension Specialist–Youth & Family Resilience Youth Mental Health, Mentoring at Risk Youth, Community Facilitation & Engagement

Sara Oberle, RDN, LD (Strafford County) Extension Teacher–Healthy Living Community Partnerships, Nutrition and Health Education, Gleaned produce Community Site/Coalition Leads

Community 4-H Youth/Adult Partnership Leads

  • Work with community sites/coalitions to create plan to integrate youth into all stages of Community Change Cycle
  • Attend coalition meetings and support youth engagement
  • Recruit youth from 4-H and community organizations to become involved
  • Recruit youth to become MW Volunteers and support their enrollment in the program

Robin Luther, M.Ed. (Sullivan County) Extension 4-H Program Manager Volunteer Management, Positive Youth Development, Healthy Living, Community Partnerships

Christine Whiting, M.A. (Coös County) Extension 4-H Program Manager Volunteer Management, Positive Youth Development, Agriculture Science, Community Partnerships

Caitlin Wollack, M.Ed. (Strafford County) Extension 4-H Program Manager Volunteer Management, Positive Youth Development, Youth at Risk, Community Partnerships

Community Site/Coalition Co-Facilitator

  • Assist Community Site Coalition Leads with planning of meetings
  • Co-Facilitate coalition meetings focused on WCC Change Cycle and action plan (s)

Melissa Lee, M.Ed.,CPS (Coös, Sullivan, & Strafford Counties) Extension Specialist–Youth & Family Resilience Community Coalition Facilitation, Community Health Education, Culturally Appropriate Facilitation, Health Equity

Health and Nutrition Educator

  • Serve on Coös Coalition
  • Implement nutrition and health education as per action plan(s)

Zeanny Egea, M.A. (Coös County) Extension Teacher–Healthy Living Community Partnerships, Nutrition and Health Education

Technical Assistance and Training

  • Train and advise staff and coalitions on using current data for the “Assessing Your Community” stage of change cycle: Semra Aytur, Ph.D.Assoc. Professor Health Management & Policy Policy, System & Environment Effects on Health, Health Equity, Participatory Action Research
  • Facilitate training and lead ongoing facilitative leadership learning-cohort with Community Site Staff: Sue Cagle, M.Ed.Extension Specialist -Community & Economic Development Facilitative Leadership, Community Coalition Development
  • Train and coach Community 4-H Youth/Adult Partnership Leads on youth-adult partnership and youth civic engagement best practices; train and coach MWV Manager on volunteer management best practices: Joe Drake, B.S.Extension Specialist–4-H Volunteer Development Volunteer Development, Positive Youth Development, Youth Citizenship Projects
  • Provide support for MWV Training utilizing educational programs via technology: Faye Cragin, M.Ed. Extension Specialist–Learning & Instructional Design Adult Education, Digital/Online course technology
  • Assist Project Manager and Community Site Lead staff with implementation of WCC evaluation protocols: Julien Kouame, Ph.D. Extension Specialist–Evaluation Evaluation Design, Data Collection and Analysis
  • Advise and support Project Manager and Community Sites/Coalitions with food access-related action plans (Strafford & Coös) and coalition development (all sites): Stacey Purslow, DTRNH Farm to School Coordinator, UNH Sustainability Institute Farm to School, Food Access, Policy, Community Coalition Building

Learn More: Healthy Living


Healthy Living Field Specialist, Community Health & 4-H
Extension Field Specialist, Health & Well-Being
Phone: (603) 788-4961
Office: Cooperative Extension, Taylor Hall, Durham, NH 03824