DOVER IS READY!

As our Shaping Dover initiative comes to an end we start to reminisce about our project, its challenges, its impact in our community, our activities, and all the people who have helped us get here. We can’t help but feel proud of our accomplishments.

We started by meeting monthly with great community partners such as: Zufall Health Center, Berkeley College; Get To It Program, ADP Insurance Agency, Little Peoples Academy, NORWESCAP Early Head Start, Henry O. Baker Insurance Agency, Head Start Community Program of Morris County, Dover Rotary Club, Statewide Parents Advocate Network, and Dover Lions Club, interns from William Paterson University, volunteers from our Family Success Center agency and In addition to these great partners, we are pleased to have the support of decision makers in our community such as James Dodd, Major of Dover; Susan Downer, Health Inspector of the Town of Dover, and Claudia Choto, Nurse of the Town of Dover.

 

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These meetings allowed us to brainstorm great ideas for our initiative. First, it was decided to conduct assessments for food environment and physical activity in the Dover Community. More than 300 residents were surveyed. The results of the surveys guided us on where to focus our resources in order to make the most impactful environmental change possible. The results gave us an idea on what the residents of Dover needed the most such as more access to gyms and healthy food. Fifty one percent of the residents surveyed said that they “sometimes” engage in physical activity, meanwhile they listed “no time, no motivation, and no parks nearby as the major reasons why they do not engage in physical activities.

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The Shaping Dover team decided to focus on creating free fitness workshops and fitness activities, while working with restaurant business owners to add healthier options in their menus. We had non-stop fitness workshops every Saturday at 12:00pm at our agency. However, the number of participants outgrew our facility thus we contacted our mayor’s office who gladly is permitting us to use the Dover Community Center. This center has the space to allow us to grow and offer the Dover community a place to exercise indefinitely.

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In June 2015 we partnered with our local Health Department in order to train business owners and their employees in proper food handling and nutrition classes. More than one hundred individuals participated in this training which took place at Berkeley College, our local college in Dover. After having these trainings we surveyed the participants in order to analyze their cooking techniques and willingness to change or add to healthier options to their menus.

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Seventy one percent of the restaurant owners/employees surveyed answered that they are willing to consider changing their cooking technics. Furthermore, Business owners responded that 46% of customers have at some point requested healthier options in their business.

We encouraged business owners to give us ideas on how to implement our goals. One of these suggestions was to design a logo that would express the meaning of Shaping Dover. The purpose of the logo contest is to raise awareness of our initiative while also getting kids involved in a healthier frame of mind. Kids ages 10-18 will design our logo and will not only receive great prizes but also better understand what it means to live a healthier lifestyle. The award ceremony of the contest will take place on October 3rd at the Annual Health Fair of one of our biggest supporters, The Head Start Community Program. This year The Dover Head Start program is also celebrating their 50th anniversary. We are extremely excited for Shaping Dover to join their celebration.

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We are sad to see Shaping Dover coming to an end but we believe it has started a fitness revolution in our town. Dover is a peculiar town filled with great people who join together despite being from so many different backgrounds. We have the best restaurants in New Jersey (no, we are not biased) and we are working towards having the healthiest town as well. We are looking forward to what the next couple of months will bring but we are confident the community is ready for health!

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Peace, Love, and Yoga

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b61When you think of Summer Camp, you probably have something in mind such as children playing outside, sunny days, popsicles, and sprinklers. Pretty close, right? Well now paint this picture… children ranging from grades Kindergarten to Sixth grade enjoying a session of Yoga inside, sitting/posing peacefully while tranquil music plays. Not your average thought of Summer Camp, right?

Eatontown Community Center’s full day, eight week, Summer Camp decided to mix it up this year! The results? AMAZING! When putting together the Summer Camp calendar of events in early Spring, a few more active, fitness related programs were thrown into the mix. The initial suggestion of Yoga had mixed reviews. What if the children do not like it? What if they have trouble sitting still? What if they get bored? What if it is too hard? Putting all fears aside, the Eatontown Community Center decided to go for it and hired a certified Yoga instructor to teach classes throughout the eight week program.

Campers were introduced to a beginner’s yoga with tranquil music, peaceful lighting, and an instructor who showed Yoga can be fun and is great for your health! The instructor began class with more kid friendly poses in which she related them to animals and bugs. She mentioned that Yoga is fun and can be an awesome workout. In fact, anyone from NBA players to pro golfers practice Yoga to better their health or to optimize their skills. All fears were put aside as campers sat still, stayed attentive and engaged, and best of all left the first class eager to know when the next class would be!

Sometimes taking risks with programs is very much worth the reward. And even if we do not have future yogis on our hands, at least a new form of fitness has been introduced to these children that will be carried through the rest of their lives.

A Tree Grows in Mildred Helms Park

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Playing on the theme of the renown book “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” of growth and tenacity, Mildred Helms Park is a jewel in the city. Mildred Helms Park, in Newark’s predominantly African-American and Latino South Ward, lacked playground equipment and suffered from the common urban blight of discarded needles, addicts and street crime. Still, for some 2,400 neighborhood children, including 300 kids from the adjacent elementary school, there was nowhere else to play. In response to the dire need for safe, healthy places for kids to be active, the Trust for Public Land spearheaded an effort to revitalize the 3.3-acre park.

After an extensive design process and fundraising effort, the new Mildred Helms Park broke ground in 2005. Before the revitalization effort, all that remained of the original park was an old shuffleboard court and some concrete tables. New landscaping was installed and additional lighting was placed to address safety concerns. TPL cultivated a sense of community ownership by bringing local parents, pastors, teachers and school children into the design process from the start. Partnerships were also forged with several city agencies, including the police and parks and recreation departments. The Mildred Helms Resurrection Committee, composed of local activists and volunteers, is helping to steer the effort.

The Mildred Helms Park project is a unique example of successful private and public funding. TPL worked with the city to win part of a $1 million National Park Service grant from the Urban Park and Recreation Recovery program, along with a $175,000 grant from New Jersey’s Green Acres program. Several private organizations provided funding, including the Prudential and Victoria Foundations, For All Kids and the Health Care Foundation of New Jersey.

It is because of the park committee’s plan to turn what was blight into a beautiful space the reason Mildred Helms Park was chosen to house a family friendly “Fitness Zone”. The fitness zone will include at least 5 areas of fitness equipment for all ages to use. Our hope is to get more residents more physically active in local parks.

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Ready to SHAPE Perth Amboy!

The Raritan Bay Area YMCA is preparing for our farmers market starting June 10th and going through to the end of October. The Y’s Farmer’s Market is expanding community awareness for healthier life styles with fresh vegetables and fruits. The YMCA has also brought together community partners to engage in healthy food accessibility to the Perth Amboy community. With the help of our community partners, we are excited for the summer season and the implementation of a small community garden. Our preschool children and after school students will help plant vegetables, learn how to take care of a garden, and learn about the different fruits and vegetables being planted. This past weekend we partnered with Jersey Cares and hosted “Service Day” where the garden planters were built and prepped.

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Play Streets dates have been confirmed for Saturdays from 11am-2pm on May 31st, June 28th, July 26th, August 23rd, and September 27th. This year’s location for Play Streets is on New Brunswick Avenue between Jefferson Street and Smith Street in Perth Amboy NJ. With the help of our collaborators we are happy to say that Play Streets will have multiple activities.

Below is a list of the focus areas:

• Sports area
• Fitness area
• Preschool area
• Health scan area
• Camp Games Area
• And much more…

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Bring On Summer!

Let the Good Times Bowl!

The members of our Adult Program at the Borough of Eatontown love to stay active and have fun at the same time. While utilizing the community center room where most of the adult programs are held, these residents participate in the growing number of programs offered. Such programs include Low Impact Aerobics, Healthy Bones, and Zumba.

Members also like leaving the building to participate in sports and other fitness activities. Our adult members enjoy such activities as walking or mini golf. As seen in these pictures, a favorite trip of these members is to go bowling.

The nostalgia of lacing up bowling shoes and hearing the “kaboom” of pins falling from a strike are the reasons most of these residents have been coming back every month. Not to mention the bowling center plays all the ‘hits’ dating back to the 50s, making sitting still between turns hard to do. Between bopping and grooving to the beats and laughing at the strikes (or gutter balls!) who knew keeping active could be so enjoyable? Our offsite bowling program is a prime example of keeping adults active in a social setting.

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So, ‘spare’ us any excuse as to why fitness cannot be fun! As our residents like to say… Let the Good Times Bowl!