Visit the Elevator, WALK the STAIRS

If you’ve had the pleasure of entering Bloomfield’s municipal building, you will notice something a bit different – signs around the elevators encouraging folks to take the stairs and burn a few extra calories.  Recently, Michael Hodges, the Health Educator, and Gail Gutierrez, the Wellness Coach, met with all of the department heads from the Township of Bloomfield to inform them of the new initiative – Take The Stairs.

In addition to informing the directors and gaining their buy in, the team also wanted to explain why physical activity is so important, especially for those with sedentary office jobs. For instance, did you know that even if you exercise, long periods of sitting are associated with:

  • Mental Fatigue
  • Poor Circulation and Heart Disease
  • Bone Loss and Poor Posture
  • Slow Metabolism and Insulin Problems

With the help of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and their “StairWELL to Better Health” we found these great motivational signs that we have posted throughout the municipal building.

Decision prompts at the elevator

Supporting physical activity for Bloomfield.

Supporting physical activity for Bloomfield.

take the stairs

Encouraging messages in the Stairwell

take stairs3

More Messaging by the Elevator

take the stairs4

Reminders by the vending machines.

Reminders by the vending machines.

take stairs2

Closer look of vending machine reminders

In addition to taking the stairs, other suggestions for office workers include:

  • standing when speaking on the phone.
  • walking to a colleague’s desk in lieu of e-mail or phone.
  • setting reminders on your computer or phone to take a break from sitting every 1-2 hours.

With these signs and the photos from The Historical Society of Bloomfield  that we’ll be displaying in the stairwells, we hope to encourage employees and any visitors to the municipal building, who are able, to get that body moving and take the stairs.  We’d love to know what you all think.  Give us a holler by commenting or liking the blog, and learn more about our programs at 

Interested in supporting your very own mini-campaign to encourage more activity at your workplace? If so, check out the CDC’s website at for some helpful resources and ideas.


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.”



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 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.

Partners in Better Health

Our coalition is made of Jeff Ridgeway – Director of Salem County Public Works, Steven Schalick – Supervisor of Salem County Public Works, George Bradford- Mayor/Oldmans Township Municipality, Mary Blithe-Health Educator and Public Health Nurse, Jill Sheppard – Director of Health Education and Emergency Preparedness, and Kathy Massey – Office of Disabilities Services.

2015Proposed Walking Path

The Salem County Department of Health and Human Services promotes healthy changes throughout Salem County through speaking engagements, exercise programs, preventive health screenings, education, and wellness clinics. Jeff Ridgeway and Steven Schalick take care of our county parks and have experience with the construction process with the initial walking path. Mary Blithe and Jill Sheppard provide health education to the community. Kathy Massey coordinates and provides services to the disabled residents of Salem County. The We, Can! campaign targets our disabled residents to be active in our walking group. Salem County has a very large disabled population about 20% and the walking path at the Salem Recreation Site is an ADA path. Oldmans Township Municipality supports this project because of the need of a safe outlet for physical activity in Oldmans Township.


Salem County Health Department Intern Jess Marich measuring the new path.


Our allies outside of the coalition are essential to the success of the expansion of the walking path and the further improvements planned for the park. These allies include Penns Grove-Carneys Point Men’s Softball League for working with us to provide menu labeling and healthy options at the concession stand.  The promotion of the walking path by our allies at the Memorial Hospital of Salem County, The Oldmans Township PTA, and Boston Associates Rehabilitation is essential to improving the healthy behaviors and ultimately improving our health outcomes in Salem County.


Website links