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.


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!


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!


Maintaining Healthy Connections in New Brunswick!

The YES Program of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Metuchen continues to make healthy connections with the families and children in New Brunswick. As the summer is upon us, the program continues to plan multiple activities focused around health and nutrition. In June, the program offered a Father’s Day healthy breakfast and nutrition activities in partnership with the New Brunswick Food Corps.

Supplies for garden and Farmer’s Market activities were purchased as part of the summer program offered to over 100 children in July and August at the Catholic Charities YES Program. Additionally, our garden continues to grow and flourish as we water and nurture our plants and flowers.

The YES Program continues to plan a Family Fitness Fun Night in July which will include a Zumba class as well as a field trip to the local Farmer’s Market this summer. Additional cooking classes will be provided towards the fall in collaboration with Elijah’s Promise.

Feedback from community partners and families continues to show positive involvement in the projects and accomplishments in educating the community of New Brunswick on the importance of health and nutrition.

Here is one comment:

“The parents like learning about ways to eat healthier for them and their children and they found out some nutritional facts they never knew, which was good.”



Taking a moment to thank our partners!

Our path is under construction pictures will be coming soon.

It is a good time to take a moment to thank our Walk N Talk group and other partners. The Walk N Talk program has grown into a close network of friendships for the participants. Most of the group are senior citizens many living on their own and very eager to participate in social events.

The Walk N Talk group walks rain or shine. ppp

When the weather gets cold, we move indoors to the Health Department’s conference room. We walk in place with the guidance of Leslie Sansone’s Walk at Home DVD.

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Our number one walker Howard Foxwell. He is a retired mailman. 36 years of mail service. That's a lot of miles!

Our number one walker Howard Foxwell. He is a retired mailman. 36 years of mail service. That’s a lot of miles!


Worlds Greatest Grandpa marching in place.

Worlds Greatest Grandpa marching in place.

Last year, we ran a pilot program with the Salem County Office of Aging to provide free lunches to our walking participants. The lunches were paid for by a grant to prevent nutritional deprivation in the elderly. To receive the free lunch participants must be a Salem County resident, over the age of 60, and fill out a small form.

The girls enjoying lunch!

The girls enjoying lunch!


Last lunch of 2014.

Last lunch of 2014.


The pilot lunch program was a success and the lunches are back! The walking group is very happy. Thank you Office of Aging for taking care of our group of special people.  Thank you to the Walk N Talk group for your dedication to the program!July 2015 Walk Schedule

Victoria from the Salem County Office of Aging handing out lunches to our participants.

Victoria from the Salem County Office of Aging handing out lunches to our participants.

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Growing Our Way Toward Fitness

GEF-CSA-80The produce is in! The produce is in!! Willow Brook Farms has announced that the crop has come in and we will be distributing farm fresh produce for our three families. The fresh produce will allow our families to enjoy all the benefits of healthy eating while learning new ways to incorporate the vegetables into their meal planning. We are very excited for this kickoff to the Willow Brook Farms CSA and all the families have been invited to a reception this Saturday at the farm to meet with the farmers and see the inner workings of what it takes to get the produce to their tables.

Fit Trail 2 StretchWe are making strides in securing a Fit-Trail outdoor exercise system to be installed at Wheatsworth Park in collaboration with Hardyston Township. This exercise system contains instructional signs and exercise equipment designed for the novice wellness seeker or well conditioned athlete.   The exercises, done in a circuit, include a warm up and cool down section, which includes the distance walked or jogged between exercise stations.Fit trail1 Family

We also recently collaborated with the Sussex County Chamber of Commerce volunteering at their Off the Beaten Track 5K trail run and wellness event. This event brought runners over some of the beautiful trails of Sussex County. One goal of the event was to increase awareness of the many trails Sussex County has to offer.



Shaping Dover is on its way to make a difference in Dover. The Shaping Dover team along with volunteers has conducted more than 300 surveys up to date in order to assess the nutritional habits, the physical activity and needs of the Dover community. Moreover, we organized a very successful fitness workshop which will be conducted twice a month and expectantly weekly with the help of volunteers and personal trainers.

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On an even higher note our supportive Dover Health Department along with our team will be conducting their annual food handler’s course to which will be added a nutrition class in order to educate restaurant business owners as well as their cooks on proper food handling procedures in addition to healthier alternatives in regards to their food choices. A total of four courses will be conducted in the upcoming week. More than 100 restaurant business owners as well as corner store owners are expected to attend!


Training for Restaurant Owners and Cooks

We are still in the process of gathering surveys from the various organizations assisting us. Our partners have been great at allowing us to join in their various activities where we have collected surveys from a varied demographic of Dover residents. Volunteers have also conducted surveys at the local clinic and nursing homes.

We have come a long way in our efforts to make Dover aware of the value of proper nutrition and physical activity. This grant has allowed us to jump start our goal of having a healthier community. More work will be taken into account once Shaping Dover further evaluates the needs of the community.

20150528_190018 Surveying the Community of Dover