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Meet Your Neighbor Tonya Garner

Posted on Monday, January 12, 2015 at 5:27 pm

Tonya Garner is the Franklin and Grundy County health educator. She hopes that 2015 will be the year for our community to make healthy choices with their life.

Tonya is originally from Pelham. Her parents are Sandy Hamby and Forrest Nunley.

“I attended Pelham elementary School and played basketball during my middle school years,” says Tonya. “My nickname was ‘Fred’ and one of my best friends, Angie Burnette, still calls me by that name.

NOW Tonya“I went to Grundy County High School for my freshman and sophomore years, and then transferred to Coffee County High School where I graduated in 1998.

“While I was in high school I was a member of the Army National Guard. The summer between my junior and senior years I went to boot camp, and during my senior year I participated in drills each month.”

After graduation, Tonya continued with the military.

“I went to Flight Operations School after graduation and was in the Army National Guard for two years. After that, I went to active duty in the Navy for seven years. I was stationed in some great places – Rhoda, Spain and Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. While in the Navy, my duties included aviation administration. I worked on flight schedules, kept flight records, and even worked as a library tech.”

During Tonya’s time in the Navy, she received the Navy Achievement Medal and was Junior Sailor of the Year. Upon leaving service, she returned to Pelham and went to work for Bradford Health Services.

“With Bradford Health Services, I worked as a crisis consultant. I was responsible for going to jails and hospitals and doing assessments and trying to get people into rehab.

“I worked for three years with Bradford then decided it was time to return to school fulltime. I started at Motlow and went on to complete my degree at Middle Tennessee State University. I graduated in 2012 and am certified as a K to 12 educator in Health Education.”

After graduating from MTSU, Tonya accepted her current position, Health Educator for Franklin and Grundy counties.

“I am the Health Facilitator for both counties. Part of my duties include providing diabetes and chronic health care information to community members. We have a diabetes management program, a tobacco cessation program, ACTIV8 in the elementary schools, and other programs.

Part of Tonya’s duties include writing grants to bring funding to Grundy County. She says in the past few years, Grundy County has received over $200,000 in grant money targeted for health concerns.

“One of our biggest events every year is the ‘Back to School Bash’ held at the high school for all Grundy County students. We have programs in the senior centers and housing developments. We host health fairs and hold Zumba boot camps.”

Tonya says data reveals that 12 percent of Grundy County residents have diabetes. For this reason, diabetes, along with tobacco use, are two of the big health challenges facing Grundy County. Working with children is one way the county hopes to combat these issues in future generations.

“Our ACTIV8 program is now in some Grundy County elementary schools. We work with students on good eating habits and teach them fun ways to exercise. University of the South students go into the schools to work with the students for this program.”

In 2015, Tonya hopes to get ACTIV8 in more local schools and start more school gardens. She also hopes to get more funding for local programs.

“We are developing a Community Health Improvement Plan that will make it easier for us to apply for grants. We have two AmeriCorps vista workers and one is working on a resource directory for the community that will be available online and in print.

“I love being involved with the community,” says Tonya. “I am a people person and I enjoy being out in the community helping people make their lives better.”

What does Tonya do in her free time? She says she is a Goodwill fanatic.

“I think I have been to every Goodwill in the state. If someone likes my outfit and asks where it came from, I can always say Goodwill.”

Tonya and her husband Matthew have two children, Lane who is five, and Taylor who is eleven. She says they give her a hard time about stopping at every Goodwill when they travel!

You can find health information and resources at www.facebook.com/grundycountyhealthcouncil.