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Nov. 28, 2020

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Pulling weeds at park helps Vancouver woman lose 100 pounds during pandemic

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
4 Photos
Karen Bean of Vancouver and her dog, DeeDee, pause for a portrait at Hearthwood Park. Bean has volunteered to pull weeds and clean the park.
Karen Bean of Vancouver and her dog, DeeDee, pause for a portrait at Hearthwood Park. Bean has volunteered to pull weeds and clean the park. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Even the COVID-19 pandemic couldn’t stop Karen Bean from reaching her goal.

The 65-year-old Vancouver resident was on a mission to lose 100 pounds when the pandemic arrived in Clark County in March.

She was relying on a gym membership at Firstenburg Community Center to help her lose the weight. When coronavirus struck, gyms across the state closed as part of Washington’s COVID-19 recovery plan.

To make matters tougher, Bean’s two granddaughters moved to Oklahoma. As Bean says, she was “made” to be a grandmother. She liked to stay active with her granddaughters, riding bikes and getting manicures and pedicures together.

“I was pretty much depressed about everything,” Bean said. “I am a retiree with all the time in the world, and I did not want to spend it watching TV.”

In search of activities, Bean started walking around Hearthwood Park in Vancouver. She noticed the park could use some weeding.

She figured she’d just do a section of the park, but kept going.

“It kind of ballooned and gave me something to do,” said Bean, who is retired from a career as a pharmacy technician.

Neighbors sometimes joined Bean, and the neighborhood association met monthly to clean up the park. Bean kept a consistent schedule and tried to work on the park for 60 to 90 minutes every day.

“Anytime that you do any type of exercise, it helps you with your mood,” Bean said.

Bean also rides her bike and was able to return to the gym before the gym closures set in again this week as part of Washington’s new COVID-19 restrictions.

Those things have helped her lose weight, as has an updated diet focused on fruit and vegetables.

“I never knew Brussels sprouts could be so dang good,” Bean said with a laugh.

When Bean began working out the gym, she could do no more than five minutes on an elliptical. She gradually got to 45 minutes, watching houses get remodeled on HGTV as she worked out.

Bean then added swimming and joined an aerobic swim class. She also made friends at Firstenburg.

“It just felt like a sense of accomplishment,” Bean said.

Still, it was the volunteerism at Hearthwood that felt most fulfilling.

“It makes me feel so good when I would go by the park, and it would look so nice,” Bean said.

Now Bean walks by the park with a rescue dog named DeeDee that she got close to a month ago. DeeDee is another helpful distraction during the pandemic — another thing to keep Bean active, just as her grandchildren did.

It took Bean about 14 months to lose all the weight. Bean said shedding 100 pounds felt like crossing a marathon finish line. Now she has a new goal. She has put her house on the market and hopes to be living near her granddaughters soon.

“I’m going to move to Oklahoma, so I’m very excited now,” Bean said. “I want to be part of their life.”

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