Building a Community Within a Community

Often times when non-profits are awarded grants, the funds are acquired, programs completed, final reports and thank you’s written – and that’s the end.

However, the Shaping NJ grant program has been about so much more than recipients completing their individual projects.  Through the Shaping NJ grant process, we’ve built a community within our community.   For instance, during one of our larger group sessions we were connected with the North Central Jersey Association of Realtors and their placemaking grant opportunities.  This led to us securing an additional $2,500 to support the rebuilding efforts at the Early Street Community Garden.  Likewise, we were able to help another Shaping NJ grant recipient, the Metro YMCAs of the Oranges by hosting them at our Urban Farm at Lafayette.  While touring the property we had the opportunity to share with them our years of experience creating urban farms, building curriculum to support the program and more.  It was a wonderful tour and we’re excited to see what they create in the Oranges.

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As for our own Shaping NJ project, we have begun building the walking path at the Early Street Community Garden and hope to have it completed by the end of the year.  The neighborhood is witnessing the start of the project, which is in turn attracting more attention and excitement.  Even an old neighbor, Craig Newmark (founder of craigslist) has become part of the growing partnership of funders.  He recently donated funds to buy a composting toilet for the site!

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Additionally, our survey has been completed and the basic analysis performed.  We’re clearly seeing that people in the community would like to grow their own food, but lack the space to do so.  And while we are finding that many of the people in our survey do find time to exercise, those that don’t feel that it is expensive or that they need additional support to do so.  These responses are already influencing our choices about future programming at the garden.  Ideas are flowing about free classes on fitness, walking, yoga, and more.  We’re sure all these ideas will lead to even more partnerships in our ever expanding community.  We’re thrilled with the support from the Shaping NJ program and we know our community will be seeing the benefits!

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