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Grounded in Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health’s mission to advance the health and well-being of the communities we serve, Beth Widdowson has found a sense of pride and purpose in serving as practice coordinator at The Heart Group of Lancaster General Health for the past 26 years. In recent years, Widdowson has expanded her personal mission in the community as a passionate supporter and volunteer with AIM to Empower – a non-profit founded by Evolution Power Yoga studio in Lancaster which brings the practice of yoga and meditation to hard-to-reach and underserved groups in Lancaster County.

Widdowson has been practicing yoga at Evolution Yoga for 12 years and has been involved with AIM to Empower since its founding in 2016, first as a board member for two years and now as a hands-on volunteer. Thanks to her commitment to the community, she has received two Penn Medicine CAREs Grants ($1,000 each) and in the fall of 2021 was the recipient of the Penn Medicine CAREs program’s most prestigious award – the Community Champion grant ($5,000). These grants have supported AIM to Empower’s mission of bringing yoga to individuals to help regain and retain their vitality and freedom.

AIM to Empower takes yoga outside of the studio and brings it to all age groups through organizations that serve or support education, mental health, prison systems, addiction recovery, youth intervention, teen parenting, transitional housing, and more. AIM to Empower classes can happen anywhere – including school gymnasiums, correctional facilities, and on neighborhood streets. Outreach programs run by the non-profit target people facing systemic bias because of sexual orientation, income, age, racial or cultural identity, and young people who have little social support or access to health and wellness tools, including techniques to help with emotional regulation.

“I have seen kids come into class angry and not having an interest in participating – but by the end of class, they are calmer and displaying a positive outlook,” Widdowson continued. “The impact of these classes, yoga and meditation keep us fighting to bring resources to those who need them most.”

The CAREs Community Champion grant is awarded to community organizations where Penn Medicine employees volunteer their time and talent. Thanks to this most recent grant, AIM to Empower is able to purchase mats, water bottles, and computer supplies to continue offering virtual classes, and conduct communication outreach to more people in the Lancaster, Harrisburg, and York areas.

Penn Medicine CAREs grant applications are always open and are awarded quarterly to a variety of community-outreach programs spearheaded or supported by Penn Medicine faculty, staff, students, and trainees. Over the past decade, the initiative has granted over $750,000 to more than 750 projects in Penn Medicine’s service area.

To learn more about the Penn Medicine CAREs Grant Program, visit PennMedicine.org/Community.

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