As a final wrap-up, we wanted to let everyone know where our projects have gone and where they are going. We have utilized our grant for four different programs:
Community Garden: The children loved learning about planting and caring for a garden. We didn’t just give them a fish, we taught them how to fish, how to provide healthy vegetables for themselves and their families. They learned how to utilized what they grew, tried new veggies they never heard of before and shared ways to prepare the garden delights! We plan to continue and grow the garden, there are two other gardens in town which we would like to partner with to expand our reach.
Play Streets: We were able to secure two partners for Play Streets, both Loman’s Auto Sales and Services in Woodbridge as well as Hot 97 Radio have become sponsors of Play Streets and have helped us to create a wonderful year end play street event. We do hope to continue this program next year.
Farmers Market: Our farmers market was a huge success, providing fresh produce to our community particularly the seniors and those on SNAP have enjoyed having the market here. We plan to close the market at the end of October and do hope that the farmers and patrons will return next year.
Teen Center: Our teen center will resume this winter to again help get teens off the streets and into the Y to exercise and socialize with their friends. Given the sheer volume of teens that arrive for teen center (500+), we need help! The cost of enough staff to ensure everyone’s safety is of utmost importance. Without the ability to staff the Y, we would not be able to continue the program. The younger teens are excited to try to help us raise funds to keep this vital program going by creating a video for a Crowdfunding campaign. We do hope that we are able to raise enough funds to continue the program until the next grant cycle.
School is back in session and thus our Teen Center will be starting up again soon. The teens in Perth Amboy are excited to once again have a safe environment to exercise and socialize. I met with our Summer Camp Counselors in Training (CIT’s) to discuss what Teen Center means for them and what they think we could do to help to continue this program. This group of teens are all in the 13/14 year-old age range, so keeping Teen Center alive is most important for them, as they will be utilizing the Teen Center for several years to come.
Q: How does Teen Center at the Y impact you?
A: 14 year old boy: “I don’t always feel comfortable at home, I feel much better when I am at the Y and able to socialize with my friends, I feel I belong they care about us here”.
A: 13 year old boy: “I was able to meet a great basketball coach at Teen Center who helped me with my basketball skills, I don’t know any place else I could go to get that help for free”.
A: 14 year old girl: “I love to dance, but my parents can’t afford to send me to dance class, I like that I get to learn new things about dance at Teen Center and can practice with my friends.”
Q: What would you be doing on the nights that Teen Center is taking place if it wasn’t available any longer?
A: 14 year old girl: “Probably staying home bored on my computer”.
A: 13 year old boy: “Getting into trouble”.
A: 13 year old boy: “Hanging out on the street”.
Our conversation lead into how we could work together to help keep Teen Center going. The teens were excited to be a part of the process. Our plan is to create a video, developed and created by the teens themselves to share their feeling on Teen Center and how important it is. We plan to use this video on fund raising sites to see if we can raise enough funds to keep this program going. Stay tuned for one amazing video soon!
Teens working on a piece for their Teen Center Fund Raising Video
Our Farmer’s Market is in full swing! The market is open every Tuesday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm thru October. Asprocolas Acres Farm provides our Farmers Market with over 100 pounds of fresh tomatoes, 168 pounds of fresh fruit, 3 bushels of various kinds of potatoes, as well as different varieties of lettuces, peppers, cucumbers, eggplants and of course bushels of their delicious NJ sweet corn as well as farm fresh eggs!
We have had a large turnout over the last few weeks. The community is thrilled to be able to shop from the wonderful array of produce. Over 100 customers visit our market each week, including seniors who are bused over so they may shop the market. The market does participate in the WIC/Snap program and will take WIC/Snap Checks.
Additionally, our Children’s Community Garden has just produced its first crop! We can’t wait for the cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, peas, beans as well as herbs to be ready for harvest. Our families were excited to learn that they may come to our Community Garden and pick fresh vegetables and herbs for their families to enjoy.
As we continue to strive to increase awareness in our community of healthy eating and healthy choices, we have begun to offer healthy recipe ideas to utilize the produce in new and unique ways. Recipes such as zucchini cakes, roasted corn and salsas were a big hit! We are also looking to have local restaurants come to the market and compete in a “Make a Farmer’s Fresh Dish Contest”. We will ask chefs to compete making a simple, delicious dish from the fresh produce found at the market. They will prepare the dish, share it with shoppers and give them the recipe, so they may make it for their own families . . .stay tuned!
To check dates and times, follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RBAYMC
Two of our Children’s Community Garden volunteers picking the first harvest of the season from our garden. Radishes! YUM! We were even able to get the children to sample some!
Baskets of produce at our front desk as a reminder to members to stop by the market on their way out.
Challenging paths, lead to beautiful discoveries . . .
Challenges have a way of pushing you to new heights. Our Farmer’s Market and Children’s Community Garden have brought about many challenges over the last year; permits, space restraints, keeping dedicated farmers engaged and our latest challenge; another non-profit in town starting their own Farmer’s Market; which could have the potential to water-down our farmer’s profits.
We overcame these obstacles by staying focused on our goal of bringing fresh fruits and vegetables to the community on a regular basis. Particularly for our seniors, who may not be able to get to a market for fresh-picked produce. One of the things we have learned along the way – It’s not about how it gets done, just that it DOES get done. We have been working hard to ensure our Farmer’s stay engaged and wanting to come to market. We understand that they need to earn a living and if coming to our Farmer’s Market is not profitable to them, they may stop coming. Working with the town, we will bus seniors to the market each week, so they may make their purchases. We will also blog, post on Facebook and Twitter and announce to our members and community that the market is up and running in hopes to keep customers coming back for more of the wonderful fresh fruits and veggies!
We have been in talks with the other non-profit in town, so that together we may have stronger traction in keeping our Farmer’s earning when they come to town. As such, the additional Farmer’s market will be located on the other side of town and will run on the weekends, while ours runs only on week days. This way, there will be plenty of produce for the community without competition for the farmer’s.
So although the road may have some bumps along the way, we are all able to enjoy the harvest in the end!
SPRING HAS SPRUNG in Perth Amboy and the Raritan Bay Area YMCA is excited for what lays ahead for our ShapingNJ projects.
We have wrapped up Teen Center Nights. What big hit they have been! With over 500 teens joining us at our facility to exercise, it was a great way to get them moving over the winter months. Our biggest challenge continued to be space for such a huge turn-out. We were able to work together with our Partners and our wonderful volunteers to continue to keep our doors open and allow the children access to all of our equipment, classes and pools until the program completed this month, but we realized the need to do more.
As a result of this program, we learned that there is a vast amount of teens needing the outlet exercise provides. Having a safe place for them to exercise is imperative and the issue of space needed to be rectified. As such, we will now be working on expanding and formalizing a Joint Use Agreement between the Raritan Bay Area YMCA and The Perth Amboy School District to apply for a 21st Century Community Learning Center Grant.
Within this application, the Y and the school district have included the use of the Perth Amboy Middle Schools on Saturday nights, in the winter to replicate and expand on the Teen Night program. With the additional space of the school gyms, this new program will encourage teens to be more active and engaged on Saturday nights within the safety of their own school districts.
Play Streets will begin again next weekend. Although Play Streets is no longer funded by the ShapingNJ Grant, we felt it was such an important program to get families outside and moving. We wanted to give everyone an update to let you know that the program resulted in us solicited sponsors to help us cover the cost. We will be working with sponsors such as Loman Auto Sales and Service in Woodbridge along with Hot 97 FM and WBLS to continue this program for five days over the summer. We are so grateful to our Sponsors! Please take a look at the following offer from Loman Auto Sales and Service, for every car they sell, they will make a donation to the Y!
Farmers Market/Community Garden
We have begun preparation for our community garden. We had our wonderful artist back to beautify our signage.
We are getting ready to plant our Children’s Garden with volunteers from the neighborhood.
Farmer’s Market Coming to the Y June 16th!