Power in numbers; power in education

Jeanice Welch takes part in the 2015 Walk to End Azheimer's at the Inner Harbor in October.
- Original Credit: Submitted photo

May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month, and February was National Heart Month.

But Jeanice Welch, of Owings Mills, doesn't need a special occasion or month of awareness to educate the public about the importance of living a healthy lifestyle, caring for oneself, and looking out for warning signs of heart disease.


Welch has been volunteering with the American Heart Association, Maryland chapter, since 2013. An independent contractor in the field of human service administration, as well as a certified fitness instructor who teaches at various gyms around the community, Welch said her background in exercise plays a part in her volunteerism.

"One of the reasons it's important for me is I am a certified group fitness instructor and because I suffer from high blood pressure and my family has a history of high blood pressure, I want people to … really [understand] risk factors," Welch, 44, said.


An ambassador for the AHA, Welch works constantly to spread the word about the importance of eating well, staying active and living a healthy lifestyle.

"So what we do, we provide awareness, we provide tools, resources and help spread awareness regarding heart health," she said. "We do this in the community, we do this at health fairs, community events, churches. Sometimes our family and friends, we reach out to them, local companies and social media; we try to use those outlets to spread awareness and provide tools for people."

But Welch doesn't stop at disseminating information. She plays a part in several AHA events, from the annual Heart Ball to the also-annual Go Red Luncheon. And she not only participates in and fundraises for the annual walk in October, but she also helps promote fitness at the event by leading the walkers in an exercise demonstration.

"We created like an after party after the Heart Walk so we would do Zumba demonstrations on stage and so Jeanice and a couple other women would perform various Zumba activities onstage to get people energized and interested in Zumba after the heart walk," said Annette Fisher, senior director of marketing and communications for the Maryland chapter of the AHA.

Welsh also works independently to plan appearances and educational events to spread the word about the association's mission. Last June, she got the AHA a table at the Baltimore Harbor East FIT+ Health and Fitness Festival.

"I actually coordinated it with the Harbor East management and had a table set up there. I reached out to them, asked if we could participate … I asked volunteer nurses to come out and do free blood pressure checks and provided materials and information to anyone that came by the table," she said. "We had free blood pressure check; we had heart health information about food, what's important, how to eat healthy, increasing your activity, really tapping into those factors to really help you either regulate or maintain good heart health."

She organized an educational event at her church, Longview Bible Church in Owings Mills, in February, once again offering free blood pressure screenings and information for members.

"It was so amazing," she said. "I scheduled a day of bringing awareness to the church … everyone showed up in red, the pastor participated. We had a video explaining heart health. Some way he intertwined it into the service. Afterwards I had volunteer nurses I had scheduled who provided blood pressure checks for everyone. It was amazing. People are still talking about it and thanking me today … it was really nice."


Fisher said Welch will oftentimes come to her on her own with ideas of upcoming events of which the association can be a part.

"I would describe her as an audacious person," Fisher said. "She is very committed when she sets her mind up to do something — she's very committed. She is one that takes every job seriously, from her Zumba to working in the public to everything she does, she is very, very dedicated and hands on. Once she begins a project from beginning to end she sees a project all the way through. We are grateful to have Jeanice as an ambassador."

For Welch, helping spread the message of the American Heart Association is about more than just volunteerism.

"I truly believe in the mission [of the American Heart Association] and the mission for me is helping people make simple lifestyle changes to help them live healthier. That's really my true passion … The one thing, being a person that suffers from high blood pressure, I just know that it's so important, and because it's like the No.1 disease that kills women, I just feel real passionate about getting the information out and sharing the information," she said.

But she doesn't just feel passionate about raising awareness about healthy living. She lives a life of giving that extends beyond just one organization.

She just recently started volunteering for the Alzhiemer's Association, helping to register participants for its annual ball and walk. She previously did volunteer work for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and continues to help out at Challengers Independent Living, a Randallstown-based nonprofit that provides life skills training to young adults who have aged out of the foster care system, where she has volunteered for the past decade.


"She participates in our gift-wrapping party where she wraps gifts and helps us wrap gifts for kids for Christmas. She volunteers and serves as a server for our annual Thanksgiving dinner we have for the kids, and she did a Zumbathon for the organization which raised a couple thousand dollars for us," said Challengers Independent Living CEO Walter McNeil.

"Over the years ... she's always been reliable that we can count on her to at least volunteer to do one of those events for us and it's been very helpful for us," McNeil said.

Welch has plenty of educational events planned for this year, and she isn't slowing down.

Tara Hughes, Welch's friend of more than 20 years, said Welch is "just the type of person who likes to give back to the community."

"She's a caring person and her heart is very big with a lot of people and she tries to reach out so that everyone is informed about health, just different various things that she's been involved in such as Alzheimers, NAMI mental health, just to bring that information to people who might to have access to that information," Hughes said.

McNeil called her a "guardian angel," saying more people like her are needed in the community.


But, Welch said, she just tries to live her life by the "three T's of giving:" time, talent and treasure.

"So when you give back, I think it's very important that you give back to the community or give back to people and there's three ways you can do that … you can choose the amount of time that you give, like I try to volunteer to give my time to the American heart association, to people that I try to teach health and fitness to … my talent I would say is having the background in group fitness, having the background in human service administration … those are the talents that I try to share with the American Heart Association."

And treasure, she said, is the fundraising piece.

"It goes back to those three T's that I was telling you. I think we as human beings, it's just basic humanity that we should give back."

For more information about the American Heart Association and how you can help, visit