Eight ways to make an age-friendly community

By Katie York, PhD, MBA
Project Director, Lifelong Montclair

After attending a conference on age-friendly communities, I realized how far Lifelong Montclair has come but how far we still have to go.  Lifelong Montclair, a Partners for Health initiative in collaboration with the Township of Montclair, started two years ago under the moniker Aging in Place in Montclair.  As we gained community partners, we rebranded to Lifelong Montclair and hit the ground running.  We now have 27 partner organizations and are seeing collaborative programs flourishing.

And the reason I was at a conference on age-friendly communities is that we’ve been designated as one.  We are a member of the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities, which confers membership in the World Health Organization’s Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities.  We’re the second NJ community to have this distinction.  This designation is an exciting opportunity to both highlight our current efforts and inspire our new ones.  The networks use a framework of Eight Domains of Livability:

  1. Outdoor spaces and buildings
  2. Transportation
  3. Housing
  4. Social participation
  5. Respect and social inclusion
  6. Civic participation and employment
  7. Communication and information
  8. Community support and health services

We’ll be highlighting projects in each of these domains, so stay tuned!

Edgemont Park House – Open House & Ribbon Cutting

The Township of Montclair celebrated Older American’s Month with an open house and ribbon cutting to officially kick-off senior programs and activities at Edgemont Park House.  The event was held on Tuesday, May 3. Edgemont Park House has seen significant upgrades, new equipment and additional staff in anticipation of its opening as a space for seniors.  This was made possible with support from the Township and a grant from the Partners for Health Foundation.

The Department of Recreation and Cultural Affairs and Department of Health and Human Services collaborated through the Lifelong Montclair initiative to provide senior residents in Montclair with a place to gather, socialize and relax with their peers, and participate in a wide variety of educational and recreational activities in a beautiful park setting.

Edgemont Park House will be open Monday through Friday, between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. for classes and walk-in activities. Opportunities will be available for both group activities and individual interests. Seniors will have reading materials, games, TV and a Wii system available for their use. Organized activities have been planned, including monthly movies, a quilting club, book clubs, walking groups, health screenings and others.

See the Edgemont Park House calendar of events for more information and how to register for classes, or call (973) 509-4915 for more information.

Making Healthy Choices Easier

By Matthew LaZaro

In early March, my Package Design class at Montclair State University was given an assignment to design a label for a bag of popcorn, a healthy snack that would be distributed to major sponsors of the 2016 Montclair Film Festival.  The “client” was Partners for Health Foundation, which is co-presenting a panel discussion at the festival called Young Voices.  The assignment was also a class competition:  the winning design would actually be printed and used.

The graphic solution struck me very quickly:  put “Enjoy the Festival” in a bold, retro typeface, with the letter O cleverly illustrated as a film reel. I wanted it to be simple, so it would send a clear message and resonate quickly.

My design was the winning entry, and I spent the next few weeks revising it based on the Foundation’s input.  I worked closely throughout this process with my Package Design professor, Karen DeLuca, who consults with Partners for Health on all of their communication materials.

After the final design was approved and sent off to the printer, I felt proud to have offered a tidbit of my design skills to share such as important message: Making healthy choices easier!

Matching Grants Programs Results in $400,000 to Fight Local Hunger and Homelessness

Community members opened their hearts and their wallets to help raise more than $400,000 donated through the Partners for Health Foundation’s Holiday Matching Grants program to seven local soup kitchens, food pantries and agencies that provide services to the homeless.

Contributions of $202,700 from 438 individuals and families were matched dollar for dollar by Partners for Health, resulting in grants totaling $405,400. In January 2016, the Foundation distributed grants in Montclair to the Human Needs Food Pantry, Toni’s Kitchen, Salvation Army, HOMECorp, Interfaith Hospitality Network, and Montclair Emergency Services for the Homeless. St. Peter’s Haven in Clifton also received a grant.

“This unparalleled generosity and support from the community quite simply allows us to continue our mission of providing food to local people in need,” notes Mike Bruno, executive director, Human Needs Food Pantry.

“This grant will support the growing number of meals served, drop in center services and emergency lodging for after-hour requests for shelter,” Michele Kroeze of the Salvation Army adds, particularly critical during the first snowstorm of the season.

Beverly Riddick, executive director of HOMECorp, underscores the importance of charitable support. “These funds will help build our capacity to preserve our community by providing more affordable homes and to promote financial empowerment for all residents.”

“This gift will help us continue nutrition assistance to the working poor and strengthen our prevention program for seniors, enabling us to provide healthy food and other interventions that improve stability and prevent homelessness,” explains Anne Mernin, director of outreach for Toni’s Kitchen.

Kitchen Renovation at The Montclair Inn

Joy Kay, Executive Director, Montclair Shared Housing Association

The residents at The Montclair Inn are always filled with pride when they talk about life at the Inn. Since 1990 it has been a residence for independent seniors who enjoy the camaraderie of the small community and the warmth and beauty of the house. One of the most notable features of The Montclair Inn is the fact that residents have prepared meals three times a day. Although breakfast is self-serve, our Head cook plans, shops, and prepares delicious and nutritious meals for our residents every day.

When I started working at The Montclair Inn as Executive Director in January of 2015, our Board of Trustees hosted a Strategic Planning session. The priority for the year was to have the kitchen renovated. Therefore, I set out to research for grant funding immediately. Our mission and grant purpose seemed to fit the guidelines that Partners for Health listed on their web site. I immediately sent a letter of intent and we were asked to complete and submit an application.

We worked diligently with Kathy Smith, Program Officer for Partners for Health, to submit an application that not only met the requirements for the grantor but also described the needs of the Inn and its residents. In July of 2015, we were elated to win the grant award for $37,000, and planning began immediately to start the renovation.

Thanks to the Partners for Health grant we were able to hire our contractor Vescon Services LLC, renovate the kitchen, and purchase new appliances. This kitchen renovation has changed everything about The Montclair Inn. Our cooking staff can prepare meals and clean the kitchen with ease, and our residents and staff have a new sense of pride in the house.

We are so proud of our new kitchen and thank Partners for Health and their Board of Trustees for turning our home into a showcase for our residents, staff and the Montclair community.

Expanding Counseling Hotline Services in Northern New Jersey

Caldwell University will expand the services it provides through its Counseling HelpLine, made possible through a grant from Partners for Health. Graduate students provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Dr. Thomson Ling, professor of psychology and supervisor of the graduate students, says they are very pleased that Partners for Health is able to help expand “this valuable service which helps to promote positive mental health in the community.”

The HelpLine is a free, anonymous, and non-judgmental telephone hotline where callers can speak to a peer-counselor in confidence about any matter that concerns them. “Callers don’t have to provide their name or any identifying information. All calls made to the HelpLine are kept confidential and answered by highly trained volunteers who can provide a listening ear,” said Dr. Ling. “It serves the dual purpose of serving the community and giving our graduate students real hands-on crisis counseling experience.”

With the grant, Dr. Ling is putting plans together to double the number of highly trained counseling graduate students who volunteer and double the number of hours of services to the public.

Dr. Ling says that over the last several years the HelpLine has grown in the number of graduate student volunteers who provide over 2,000 hours of service annually. “Each year the center responds to thousands of calls from northern New Jersey and beyond.”

MKA 3rd Grader Advocates for Community Gardens

Want to improve your community?  Enlist the help of third graders inspired by speakers from community organizations including A Lot to Grow community gardens, the United Way of Northern NJ, Bike & Walk Montclair, and PAWS.  Dana Rose, Meghan Schorr and Maurine Toth, third grade teachers at Montclair Kimberley Academy, implemented an innovative Social Studies lesson plan this year designed to teach youngsters how to be agents of social change. Following classroom presentations, the students researched a topic they felt passionate about, and then wrote a persuasive letter designed to positively impact the community.

Amira Kittles’ letter was addressed to Kevin Rendino, Board Chair of Partners for Health.  The Foundation has provided $27,500 in grant funding to A Lot to Grow since 2012.  In her letter, Amira noted, “People who garden eat more fruits and vegetables on a daily basis….You don’t have to buy your own vegetables. You can walk, bike or run to get your vegetables from the garden.”  Her letter closed with these thoughts, “I feel more people should have the opportunity to garden.  Gardening is healthy, tastes the best, saves money, is good for the environment, and gardening is fun.”

Amira was stirred to action by the comments of Patrice Kelly, MLitt., Director of A Lot to Grow, who focused on the relationship between local food insecurity and the A Lot to Grow mission.  Kelly engaged the students by asking how many had home gardens or knew someone who did; how many had shared a garden experience with family and friends; questions about fresh vegetables; what students understand about food shopping, food pantries, and problems people might have in trying to gain access to food in general and to specifically to fresh vegetables.

All of the produce grown in six A Lot to Grow community gardens in Glen Ridge, Montclair and Nutley is delivered to local soup kitchens and food pantries.  To date, this volunteer-driven initiative has grown and donated more than 7,400 pounds of vegetables and herbs.

Up to $125,000 in matching grants to double the impact of holiday donations!

Partners for Health will again providing matching grants to benefit local soup kitchens and food pantries, and this year will include organizations working to address homelessness.  Individual gifts of $50 made by December 31, 2015 will be eligible for the program.  Up to $125,000 in matching grants are available.

Participating programs include the Human Needs Food Pantry, Toni’s Kitchen, Salvation Army Montclair Citadel, St. Peter’s Haven in Clifton, and MORE TO COME

This matching grants program emerged from the Foundation’s Fight Hunger the Healthy Way campaign. The goals of the campaign are to raise awareness about the growing problem of hunger in suburban communities, and to inspire action on behalf of those who depend on emergency food programs.  The program is also part of the Eat. Play. Live…Better community coalition of local partners who are working to increase access to healthy and affordable meals for residents of all ages and incomes.

For more information about making a donation that qualifies for the Holiday Matching Grants program, contact:

Human Needs Food Pantry
(973) 746-4669

Toni’s Kitchen
(973) 932-0768

Salvation Army
(973) 744-3312

St. Peter’s Haven Food Pantry
(973) 546-3406

Online gifts are especially encouraged on #GivingTuesday, December 2.


Central Presbyterian Church Healthy Food Drive Making a “Ton” of Difference

Parishioners of the Central Presbyterian Church in Montclair recently organized a healthy food drive for the Human Needs Food Pantry.

According to John Helm, Mission Chairman of the church, “We collected more than 2,000 pounds of food – literally a ton – making a ton of difference. For the past ten years, we’ve had a goal to collect this much food, and we were thrilled to reach our yearly goal in just one weekend.”

He added, “Any group in Montclair has the capacity to do this.”

As a result of their efforts, the Human Needs Food Pantry also received $500 from the Partners for Health Foundation’s Matching Grants Program.

“Both Partners for Health and the Central Presbyterian Church are tireless supporters of our mission and we are extremely grateful for all they do for us,” said Mike Bruno, Executive Director of the Human Needs Food Pantry. “We can’t survive without this community support.”

Bethel Rehoboth Food Pantry & Meal Center to receive $500 through Matching Grants Program!

Neighbor to Neighbor Network has been working with Boy Scout Troop 22 out of Bloomfield, chartered by Saint Thomas the Apostle Church, to collect healthy food for the Bethel Rehoboth Food Pantry & Meal Center in Bloomfield. Through mid-April 2014, they had collected nearly 40 bags of food using the Fight Hunger the Healthy Way campaign toolkit.

Next month they will be expanding their efforts to include the Bloomfield Girl Scouts.

As a result of their efforts, Bethel Rehoboth will receive $500 from the Partners for Health Foundation’s Matching Grants Program!

“Both Partners for Health and the Central Presbyterian Church are tireless supporters of our mission and we are extremely grateful for all they do for us,” said Mike Bruno, Executive Director of the Human Needs Food Pantry. “We can’t survive without this community support.”

Salvation Army receives $4,400 through Matching Grants Program!

MKA juniors Joe Amato and Ben Rapsas have teamed up with Partners for Health to fight hunger.

The young men enlisted more than a dozen peers to join them in a Food Run held on Sunday, April 6, 2014. Each runner/walker raised funds and traversed a 5K route outlined by an MKA Cross Country coach. The course began in Brookdale Park, then went through Montclair and ended at the Salvation Army, which is the recipient of all funds they raised.

Partners for Health is matching every dollar donated to support this Food Run. The teens raised $2,200, which means the Salvation Army will receive a check for $4,400.

Partners for Health has committed up to $25,000 to this new Matching Grants Program. Healthy food drives will be “matched” at $500 per drive, and fundraising drives will be matched dollar for dollar. All activities must benefit local emergency food programs.

“We are grateful to Ben and Joe for organizing this event because it allows us to better serve those who depend on us to provide healthy meals,” said Michele Kroeze of the Salvation Army. “Thank you to all of the young people who so generously donated their time, and to all the sponsors who not only made this fundraising endeavor such a success, but also helped to communicate this need within our community.”

“The Fight Hunger the Healthy Way Campaign struck a chord with us because we believe healthy eating should not be a privilege, but should be accessible for all,” said Ben Rapsas.

“Ben and I are very active and wanted not only to support healthy eating but also a healthy lifestyle, so we came up with the idea to do a Food Run,” added Joe Amato.

Both teens are exemplifying another implicit lesson of the Campaign: that aiding the less fortunate is the cornerstone of community service.

Area Children Join the Fight Against Suburban Hunger!

By Jennifer Hanawald

Local children are learning about suburban hunger and taking action to raise donations for emergency food programs.

Leaders of Girl Scout Troop 20528 in Montclair said the goals of the Campaign to Fight Hunger the Healthy Way — to help community members of all ages to eat well — resonated deeply.

The Cadettes had recently finished a healthy eating project and had learned about local homelessness through a scout program. Inspired by the campaign toolkit, the middle school girls set up a stand at the A&P on Valley Road in Montclair in December, hung the campaign banner, and handed out forms that listed specific items needed by food pantries.

“The girls approached people, explained what we were doing, gave them the list, and asked them to find foods that were healthful,” said troop co-leader Alicia Lukachko. “It was remarkably successful. One man said that because it was something concrete, he spent more than he would have given in money. People appreciated the list and said it raised their awareness.”

Just an hour and a half later, the girls headed over to Toni’s Kitchen with more than 20 bags of healthy groceries. “The kids were really thrilled. It was beyond anything they had expected,” said Lukachko.

At Toni’s the reception was warm. “They were so appreciative, and pleased to get food that actually helped them meet the nutritional goals they work to meet.”

Six-week food drive at School 2 in Little Falls!

By Jennifer Hanawald

The Pre-K through second graders of School 2 in Little Falls are doing an amazing job collecting healthy foods for two food pantries: St. Agnes Church and First Reformed Church, both in Little Falls.

Our school’s Media Advisor, Ms. Roth, has been reading to our students from the list of children’s book that’s in the Fight Hunger the Healthy Way toolkit. Each week our 300 students are given a choice of what food items they want to donate.

St. Agnes has family pick-up days on the first and third Saturday of the month, so the Friday before we focus on collecting fresh fruits and vegetables. Our families have been encouraged to visit the 46 Farmers Market in Totowa, where the prices are more affordable than a supermarket.

The school’s principal, Mr. Ryan, thought the kids would enjoy pushing around a shopping cart while collecting food. He was right! Robyn Davis has been a huge asset in planning and was also nice enough to pick up the Shop Rite shopping cart.

Our PTA also put a collection box at their meeting to collect toiletries for the pantries. My husband’s office, Upper Montclair Dental Associates, has received donations of toothbrushes and toothpaste. And our Dental Hygienist, Lori Garrison, donated her own children’s “gently used” books, which were given to the pantries and distributed with food bags.

Education and nutritional food are essential not only for living, but for learning. This is such a great cause, and it is heartwarming to see our school, families and especially our students give so much.

I especially want to thank Mr. Ryan, who has been so open to our ideas and is such a believer in helping our community. Pat Keating, the manager of St. Agnes Church, is also willing to come present our students with a certificate of appreciation!

The amount of food we have collected has been overwhelming. We are fortunate to live in a wonderful community, and for my husband to work in an amazing community as well!

Inspiring Action to Fight Hunger

By Jennifer Hanawald

Partners for Health has kicked off a year-long campaign to raise awareness about suburban hunger and inspire action that will help nourish our neighbors who struggle to afford healthy food.

The grant-making foundation developed the Fight Hunger the Healthy Way campaign to put an emphasis on donations of healthy foods to emergency feeding programs as part of its mission to promote health and wellness in the community.

Partners for Health executive director, Pam Scott, says that efforts by schools, congregations, sports teams and youth clubs will increase the amount of nutritious options available for those who need it the most.

The community garden initiative, A Lot to Grow, a key partner in this effort, is an example of people coming together to make a difference. Founder Patrice Kelly became concerned at the beginning of this Recession five years ago about access to fresh produce for people who were struggling. Today, ALTG volunteers grow fresh vegetables in five local gardens that are then donated to soup kitchens, food pantries and senior citizen facilities located in Montclair, Bloomfield, Glen Ridge and Nutley.

Since 2010, more than 3,500 pounds of vegetables and herbs have been donated.

Volunteers say that in addition to helping fight local hunger, they receive great benefits: physical work in the garden; social interaction with people from different backgrounds; and even knowledge to apply to their own backyard gardens.

“Our gardens are volunteer-driven, and 100% of the produce goes to persons in need,” said Kelly.

Human Needs Food Pantry director, Michael Bruno, said, “The ALTG program was extremely helpful because it gave us the ability to provide our clients with a variety of garden-fresh items that most would or could never buy for themselves because of food budget limitations.”

All types of donations, from garden initiatives to one-off food drives that bring in quality food are welcomed at the HNFP, where Bruno said pounds of food they have distributed has risen by 55 percent over five years, and the demand continues to rise.

Fighting Hunger the Healthy Way: A Call to Action

By Jennifer Hanawald

What would you do if you had to choose between paying the bills and putting a decent meal on the table? With poverty rising twice as fast in the suburbs than in cities, that’s become the reality for an increasing number of our neighbors, right here in Montclair.

Partners for Health, a non-profit foundation dedicated to strengthening health and wellness in the Montclair area, is seeking to bolster support for local emergency feeding programs that are stretching to keep up with rising demand.

Anne Mernin, director of community outreach at Toni’s Kitchen, recently noted a 62 percent increase in the meals the food ministry has served over the past five years, with the biggest gains coming from the working poor and senior citizens.

So in addition to financial and strategic support, the Foundation is launching a year-long campaign designed to engage all of our community to share resources, energy and creativity to increase access to healthy food for our most vulnerable neighbors.

Pam Scott, executive director of the Foundation, said, The Fight Hunger the Healthy Way campaign is a call for schools, teams, clubs, congregations, youth groups, businesses, families, and individuals to take action on behalf of those who depend upon emergency food programs.”

The focus is on nutritious foods, including fresh produce, said Scott, because “healthier foods are a key way to combat preventable illnesses and conditions that are linked to poor diets.”

Youth participation is also a priority. Scott said, “We want to make younger people more aware of hunger in suburbia, and more importantly, to inspire them to take action.”

This is particularly meaningful because kids are hit hardest by food insecurity, with one in five children in New Jersey living in homes without enough money to make ends meet.

To facilitate age appropriate involvement, the Foundation has developed thoughtfully designed toolkits that incorporate easy-to-execute ideas of how to conduct food drives by linking them to one-time sports events and other activities. Groups or individuals can use the materials to learn more about local hunger, launch an event and donate proceeds.