New Swing Set installation starts today!! Hurray!!


Getting ready to P.L.A.A.Y. ..Promoting Lifelong Activity Among Adults and Youth!

The installation of the new Swing Set for Mill Creek Park, Willingboro, New Jersey started today.  According to the Willingboro Recreation and Park Department a “swing set” is an important attraction and important “play time equipment” for all playgrounds.

The P.L.A.A.Y. Shaping NJ Grant partners are happy to provide this new swing set for the residents of Willingboro, NJ and the BCCAP Head Start and Early Head Start children and families.


Save the date: The New Mill Creek Swing Ribbon Cutting, Saturday, October 10, 2015, 11AM to 1PM. Join us for the ribbon cutting, healthy refreshments, prizes, a walk in the park and of course…. swing set playtime!

For more information contact: Natalie Mitchem, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Fitness Instructor at or Kendall Brunson Recreation Supervisor, Willingboro Recreation and Parks Department at

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P.L.A.A.Y Shaping NJ Grant Partners: Willingboro Recreation and Parks Department, Burlington County Health Department, Pi Mu Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, G3 Health & Fitness, Deliliah Winder, Burlington County Community Action Program Head Start and Early Head Start and Dr. Trina Gipson-Jones.


The Journey to a Healthy Lifestyle will continue!

The YES Program of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Metuchen is wrapping up its last month of the Shaping NJ grant funding. We can’t believe it is that time already!

The program and community of New Brunswick has blossomed from the knowledge gained around the importance of health, fitness, and nutrition. The partnerships developed over the past nine months have been outstanding and the families have much to be thankful for.

The YES Program of Catholic Charities has been able to provide a wealth of resources and information to the families and children through the many partnerships that we have developed as well as many special activities and events. From our Health Fair to our monthly workshops to our trip to the Farmers Market, the families of New Brunswick have gained education and involvement on the importance of a healthy lifestyle. This project has strengthened some of our previous relationships as well as provided the opportunity to connect to new partners. It additionally enhanced the teamwork at the YES Program with staff from all levels. Many of the staff are already thinking about what the program can do with a new funding opportunity!

As the program wraps up the grant we look back at some of our highlights:

*Expanded partnerships and collaborations with the New Brunswick Food Corps, Rutgers Cooperative Extension (SNAP Ed), and the New Brunswick Community Farmers Market to name only a few

*Over 100 people and 65 families in attendance at our Healthy Families, Healthy Communities fair on April 11, 2015

*Healthy Eating and Physical Activity project with the YMCA

*Family workshops offered on a variety of health, fitness, and nutrition topics

*Planting new flowers and vegetables in our garden with our partners from Food Corps

*Weekly healthy eating education, activities, and supplies for 100 New Brunswick preschool children (“Color Me Healthy”)

*Father’s Day healthy breakfast

*Family Fitness Day

*Field trip to the New Brunswick Farmer’s Market

*Zumba classes for staff, parents, and children

*Landscape Assessment completed with Food Corps to assess and improve the overall school environment focused on health and wellness

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Recent Zumba classes offered to children, staff, and families of New Brunswick are one of the many activities offered as we wrap up the funding and prepare for our presentation at the September grantee meeting. The YES Program of Catholic Charities looks forward to our involvement in the gallery walk to showcase our highlights and experiences on September 25th!

Healthier Somerset Welcomes Spring!

Spring is finally here, and it’s perfectly timed as we move forward on our ShapingNJ projects to get people walking, biking and eating healthy!  Our program will encourage three towns – Bound Brook, Manville, and Somerville – to adopt “Complete Streets” and make their towns safer and friendlier for everyone who is on their streets and roads.

While the residents and visitors to these towns are out and about, we hope they’ll visit the local farmers’ market. We know that farmers’ markets are a great source for locally-grown, healthy produce, but people without access to private transportation may have a hard time getting to them. They can also be expensive.

Our campaign will include providing vouchers to the underserved to purchase healthy items at the farmers’ markets; nutrition workshops targeted to specific market segments; health fairs to kick off each farmers’ market opening with family activities and nutrition information; and brochures that offer targeted nutrition information (English and Spanish).  EmPoWER Somerset and Zufall Health will develop the workshops and brochures and use their experience to support the individuals and organizations who manage the markets, since they are usually not health professionals.  RideWise TMA is taking the lead on moving the adoption of  “Complete Streets. forward”

We’re partnering with the local elected officials and Boards of Health in our three towns to get both of these projects underway.  Our partners in the grant are meeting with additional partners as well, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Somerset County Food Bank Network, and the Emmanuel Episcopal Church.

We could not accomplish our goals without support from our key partners:

  • EmPoWER Somerset:  EmPoWER Somerset assists individuals and families in making positive lifestyle choices and fosters healthy, drug free communities through education, collaboration, and linkages to resources.
  • RideWise TMA RideWise is one of New Jersey’s eight designated transportation management associations (TMA). The agency’s mission is to develop sustainable travel alternatives that help to improve mobility, reduce traffic and decrease carbon emissions.  A key goal of RideWise is to promote efficient transportation through carpools, vanpools, shuttle services, bicycling and walking.  Where transportation infrastructure is designed to accommodate or even encourage non-motorized transportation, such as through Complete Streets policies, it can have a positive effect on public health.  Complete streets and land use strategies that consider health can help increase physical activity, improve accessibility and safety, and ease congestion and air pollution.
  • Zufall Health:  Zufall Health is the medical and dental home for the underserved with sites in north, west, and central New Jersey.  A fully licensed, Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), Zufall Health provides high-quality, affordable, compassionate medical and dental care to patients in Dover, Morristown, Hackettstown, Flemington, Somerville, West Orange, and on its Highlands Health Van.
  • Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset is a 965-bed academic medical center with campuses in New Brunswick and Somerville.  It is the core hospital of the Robert Wood Johnson Health System; the principal teaching hospital for Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; the flagship hospital for Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey; and New Jersey’s only pediatric academic health campus.  RWJ Somerset is the convener of Healthier Somerset.
  • Middle-Brook Regional Health Commission (MBRHC) provides public health services to five towns in Somerset County:  Bound Brook, Green Brook, South Bound Brook, Warren, and Watchung.  Middle-Brook Regional Health Commission (MBRHC) has provided residents and business owners with quality public health services for over 40 years. With a Vision of Healthy People and Places..A Healthy Community, their mission is to improve the health of our community and environment through the use of prevention services, health promotion and protection strategies. This is achieved through the use of preventive services, health promotion and protection strategies, and inspection and enforcement activities.
  • Somerset County Department of HealthSomerset County Department of Health (SCDOH) is the flagship Health Department serving Somerset County. SCDOH is the largest health department, and the umbrella public health agency for specialized technical and professional public health services throughout Somerset County.  Somerset County Department of Health is the Contracting Health Agency for Bedminster, Far Hills, Franklin Township, Manville, North Plainfield, Raritan, Rocky Hill, and Somerville.

Enjoying Nature’s Bounty!

The Morris County Cooperative Garden continues to produce great veggies for our garden workers and their agencies. String beans, three kinds of peppers (including devils tongue), mint, and soon, tomatoes, are going home in brown bags! These fresh garden vegetables and herbs will be used for delicious new and standard recipes. We have shared recipes for Swiss chard and basil – the usual pizza and salad, but also soups and main dishes. Pollinators have been busy at the garden too! We’ve seen caterpillars, bees, small frogs, and other friendly visitors. Unfortunately, we may also have been visited by a basil blight that we hear is making the rounds. We’ve managed to harvest lots of leaves from the plants before this problem set in so it is a lesson  learned.

Pollinators have been bizzzzy!Garden in bloom

A recent press release put out by our partner agency, Homeless Solutions, included a quote from one of the young participants – 13 year old Brandon said “I love going to the garden because it makes me feel happy. If you go there, you might just feel a little bit better about yourself…There are many different kinds of vegetables growing and they all have a nice, sweet smell to them.” And that’s what the Cooperative Garden of Morris County is all about!

Let’s Move and Eat Together!








On Saturday September 6th the community of Garfield had a morning of activity at 20th Century Field Park on Elizabeth Street.

 The day consisted of a 5K Run/Walk, Masala Bhangra®, Zumba®, a Family Fun Run, a Family Bike Ride and a Qi Gong Class.  As well, there were apples, oranges and bananas free for all participants. While there was an entry fee for the 5K (that is an official Track and Field Certified Run) the rest of the activities were free to the entire community.

 It was particularly exciting to offer Qi Gong to the community in the park. Qi Gong helps cultivate energy. Qi Gong is a holistic discipline that anyone can practice to create better health. Participants aged from middle school all the way to senior citizen. A community cultivating energy together in the park is a community that will continue to grow and work together.

 The city of Garfield saw some tremendous opportunity and access throughout 2014 for increased wellness. Throughout the year the Garfield Y was hard at work with a project that looked to increase opportunity to fresh food and physical activity. When looking at the project there were many vehicles used; a garden to gather knowledge, fellowship, and nutrition; community events that built connections and friendships while sharing knowledge and activity; a commitment to keep fresh healthy food present at all community events; and last but not least, building an on-line community through social media to build awareness and connections on the topics of community health and fun.  

 Because we are unique individuals, a multi-faceted approach to creating increased wellness in a community is key. An abundance of opportunity delivered through various on ramps and vehicles will yield an integrated community. This is what makes us whole. This is what makes us complete. This is the definition of health. Opportunity is an idea. Choice is opportunity in action. Where prescriptions are failing this western culture, (because if they worked we would not have chronic disease) they Garfield Y has choices entering the arena in the fight against dis-ease. The study of whether more people attended Zumba or Qi Gong, liked to eat eggplants or tomatoes, is not going to yield the secret weapon needed to wage war on ailing health and building a community. That the opportunity is there to deliver Zumba or Qi Gong, that we can grow eggplants and tomatoes, this is where the substance of healing and improved health lay. For helping the Garfield Y deliver such opportunities with choices, Shaping NJ is at the forefront of change agents. The Garfield YMCA thanks Shaping NJ for helping us in our mission. We love doing what we do and we are so happy to work together!   




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