I am writing this blog on such a high!  Just back from our Shaping Elizabeth Work Group Meeting.

I wish I could pass the good vibes that I am feeling through the blog.  The conversations, honesty, successes and commitment that were shared were both rewarding and exhilarating.

At the meeting the Playstreets Team and Corner Store Team shared their success, challenges, plans for the future and a call for action with the group through pictures, anecdotes, data and stories.  Below is a link to lessons learned and future planning for our playstreets initiative.  Next year bigger and better is already in planning stages.  Healthy Stores is plugging along and 2 organizations signed on to support the project with stores in their area that they have relationships with.  Dates were set to make those connections.

We also shared our nutrition education program “Eat Healthy, Be Active Community Workshops” coming this fall.  A nutritionist will be hired next week and organization has already signed up to provide space and most importantly people to attend.  This program is funded through The Elizabethtown Healthcare Grant.

In 9 months we have formed “working collaborations” not just paper collaborations that benefited the community.  Playstreets brought together City of Elizabeth, The Gateway Family YMCA, 3 council people, 1 Freeholder, WellCare Inc., Union County Community Food Bank, City of Elizabeth Health Department and several organizations in participation, in-kind support and donations Sept WG DAC 2 Sept WG DAC 4

Shaping Elizabeth Partners understanding how to work better together.

Shaping Elizabeth Partners understanding how to work better together.

Impacting over 350 children and adults with 3 play streets.  In addition we feel we can use the Playstreets events as a model of engagement and a change agent for the community.

Currently we have 1 Corner Store Signed up and 2 more in the works.  We also received a grant from the Food Trust to be able to supply nutrition education, taste testings and equipment to committed owners.

We shared an exercise from our Robert Wood Johnson Center for Creative Leadership Training on Direction, Commitment and Alignment.  The discussion that followed and the information from the team was inspiring and will help set future direction.

My final thought comes from one of our participants, I am paraphrasing: She stated that Shaping Elizabeth was her community team of choice to attend – she went on to say – the spirit of collaboration, the support for each other and the meeting organization was valued by her and her organization.

What could be better than that! Can You Feel it!

Shaping Elizabeth Celebrating Playstreets Lesson Learned



Jonathan and Priscilla bring Healthy Information to Emily's.

Jonathan and Priscilla bring Healthy Information to Emily’s.

Emilys Corner Store Second visit #2

Store Manager Jose becomes familiar with healthy signage.

Emilys Corner Store Second visit #6

Karen observes a healthy new cereal that consumers can purchase.

Emilys Corner Store Second visit #7

The team is welcomed by Jose. Success Emily’s Corner Store made 5 Healthy Changes.

Success Emily’s Corner Store made 5 Healthy Changes.

Our Corner Store Team made a second visit to Emily’s to observe the healthy changes that were made.

We observed that Jose had implemented 5 changes 100% Juice, Whole Wheat Bread, a new Veggie, 2 whole grain cereals, and a lean meat option.  The team made some suggestions for a few more items: 1% milk, more canned fruit in light syrup and 100% juice.

We will be requesting the $100 grant to support additional changes in location of items and displaying them.  We will visit the store again and begin to set up food tastings and healthy recipe cards in September.

Team members posted the corner store healthy signage to begin to educate consumers on how to make healthy choices.



Residents of Elizabeth enjoyed our second play street July 20th in Midtown Elizabeth.

The pictures and videos tell the story:

Stan Neuron, City of Elizabeth along with Council Members William Gallman, Jr 5th Ward and Carlos Torres, 1st Ward and Donald Johnson welcome everyone to Shaping Elizabeth Play Street.

Stan Neuron, City of Elizabeth along with Council Members William Gallman, Jr 5th Ward and Carlos Torres, 1st Ward and Donald Johnson welcome everyone to Shaping Elizabeth Play Street.

Safety first.  Over 50 kids received helmets from

Safety first. Over 50 kids received helmets from “Safe Kids Program” Children’s Specialized Hospital.IMG_1342

YMCA Staff Leo and Rafael help the kids

YMCA Staff Leo and Rafael help the kids “Get Physical”.

You Go Girl!

Lets Get Loose!

The Day Begins!

Congratulations to Emily’s Supermarket in Elizabeth 


Our First Healthy Corner Store Enrollment!

Our First Healthy Corner Store Enrollment!

Emilys Corner Store

A team from Shaping Elizabeth including: Priscilla Machado, Bayway Family Success Center, Jonathan Phillips and Rocio Morales, Groundwork Elizabeth, Karen Ensle, Rutgers Cooperative Extension and Alane McCahey, The Gateway Family YMCA accompanied by Anna Ramos, NJ Corner Store Initiative set out into Elizabeth to visit 3 stores.

Anna was a great teacher and helped us get started.  Priscilla had scouted a couple of stores in Bayway. Emily’s Supermarket in the Bayway area next to Mrvalag Housing and School #5 was excited to sign up.  Storeowner Daniel Bernal has been involved with healthy corner stores in Newark and was ready to sign on immediately.  With intake form complete Priscilla and Alane will be visiting the store in 2 weeks to supply healthy signage and learn what 4 healthy changes the store has made.  We are hoping they may choose a healthy snack option and maybe some whole wheat bread.


Best Push Up of the Day!

Best Push Up of the Day!

Families participated together!

Families participated together!

Shaping Elizabeth held its first Play Street on June 20th, 2015 in Elizabethport.  Our excitement could not be dampened by the clouds. Over 25 volunteers prepared for the event.  Donald Johnson, Supervisor, Office of Youth Services and Michael Johnson, Director of Association Initiatives organized the event.  15 “Building Future Leader” Teens volunteered AND THEY WERE OUTSTANDING.  Krishna Garlic, Director of Health & Human Services, City of Elizabeth and Shaping Elizabeth Work Group Leader, led the team.

The video link https://youtu.be/lO2evywTZ1E shows children and adults participating in events together which was one of our goals.  Council Member Carlos Torres, 1st Ward and Council Member At Large and President Patricia Perkins – Auguste supported the event with their involvement and donation of an adult bike for our participation raffle.

We are looking forward to our second play street on July 11th in 5th Ward  with Council Member William Gallman.

The Playstreets project has been a model of collaboration.  The City of Elizabeth Health & Human Services Department took the lead which brought many city resources – fire, police, volunteers, equipment and more.  Partner organizations donated supplies and resources.  The YMCA brought leadership and resources.  Partnering enabled us to leverage the support of the Council people in each ward.

There are challenges: Marketing Shaping Elizabeth effectively, resources are needed for signage, pamphlets and completion of our Facebook page.  Most challenging for me as the Project Leader is giving up control of events and allowing for a different picture to emerge then I might have envisioned.  This is hard but worth it.

We will need to leverage funds for marketing materials; we have received a second grant that will resource some marketing materials.  The more we continue to work together the easier it will be to give up control.

The community is excited for more play streets and we want to deliver them.

Teen Volunteers were a BIG help.

Teen Volunteers were a BIG help.

Krishna Garlic, City of Elizabeth and Council Woman Patricia Perkins-Auguste

Krishna Garlic, City of Elizabeth and Council Woman Patricia Perkins-Auguste


Shaping Elizabeth’s organizational strategy supports the way we work together to complete the goals of our projects.  The Active Living Work Group is leading our Play Streets project and Access to Healthy Foods is leading the Corner Store Initiative. Due to this structure we have had the ability to engage many partners in order to achieve success.

Krishna Garlic, Director of Health & Human Services, City of Elizabeth is the leader of the Active Living Work Group and along with Michael Johnson, Director of Association Initiatives, The Gateway Family YMCA have been working together with several organization to plan and implement 3 Play Streets in Elizabeth.  Krishna’s leadership has led to connections with all 3 council people in each Ward who not only support the events with their time and presence, all have also agreed to match a bicycle donation for a raffle.  WellCare Health Plans would donate 3 bikes if we could find a match.  The council people also were instrumental in finding locations in each of their Ward areas.

The Community Food Bank of New Jersey will donate water and fresh fruit for each event and each partner is donating water as well. The City of Elizabeth has agreed to support the event through staffing, police and emergency personal as well as shirts for the event.  It is our hope that Mayor Bollwage will attend.

The goal of the Play Streets is to engage both adults and children to get active.  In that spirit we will use a “bingo card” for event participation that can be submitted for raffle prizes for both adults and children.  We want to see everyone participate.

Attached is our Play Streets flyer. Shaping Elizabeth Playstreets

Jonathan Phillips, Executive Director, Groundwork Elizabeth and Karen Ensle, Family & Community Educator, Rutgers Cooperative Extension are Leaders of our Healthy Foods Work Group.  At the first organizational meeting the team reviewed the list of stores provided by the City of Elizabeth Health Officer Mark Colicchio and decided on parameters for engagement: size of store (smaller square footage locations), willingness of owners to change, location of store (near a school or housing authority) and current inventory.  Each participant agreed to visit stores, take a picture and asses current offerings. The next planning meeting is scheduled for May 27th, 7-8 stores will be selected for further engagement.

Both projects are progressing.  The Play Streets Program has moved at a quick pace due to the leadership and support of the City of Elizabeth. The biggest challenge is deciding on the need for people to sign a waiver or release to attend the event which may limit children participating alone.  The Corner Store Initiative is progressing and now that the Healthy Food Work Group has assumed leadership implementation of initiative is off and running. Time is always our biggest challenge.

Shaping Elizabeth is very fortunate to have the City of Elizabeth’s support for both of these projects.  The resources and connections that have been facilitated have lead to increased support from City of Elizabeth Council People as well as city services.  The Mayor of Elizabeth supports both of these projects in a large part due to the advocacy for our work by Ms. Garlic.  In the future, this should prove invaluable when moving to sustainable policy and environmental changes.