Verona breaks ground for inclusive playground

On Monday, March 25, Verona Mayor Christopher Tamburro and members of the Verona Council kicked off construction on the Township’s new fully inclusive playground located at the Community Center. The new playground space was carefully designed to bring families of all abilities together for play and socialization. 

Funders for the project included the Essex County Community Development Grant Program, Partners for Health Foundation, Verona’s Community Services and Recreation Advisory Committee, and Greenfields Outdoor Fitness. NJ Assemblyman Al Barlas (third from right in the photo) was among the dignitaries who attended the groundbreaking event. 

The new playground will be slightly larger than the previous one, encompassing approximately 5,000 square feet. It will feature both a children’s play area and an adult fitness section. The playground’s design promotes inclusivity and cognitive learning, and all of its components, including the adult exercise equipment, will be wheelchair accessible.  

The Township anticipates that the playground will open to the public by the summer of 2024.  

Partners for Health Team Updates!

Congratulations Jackie!

Jackie Gifuni-Koutsouris has recently been promoted from Program Associate to Program and Evaluation Officer. Jackie joined the Foundation more than six years ago and has advanced through progressively more responsible positions in our grantmaking process, where she has played a key role during our strategic planning process.

In this new role, Jackie will manage Foundation data collection and analysis, conduct systematic and ongoing research about policy areas to inform Foundation learning, and integrate grantee feedback into grant-making strategy and processes.

Jackie brings a wealth of evaluation experience to the Foundation, and we are excited about her new role at the company. Please join us in congratulating her on her promotion!

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Welcome Kayla!

Kayla Blake will be joining Partners for Health this summer and fall as a graduate intern. She is pursuing her Masters in Public Health with a concentration in Community Health Education at Montclair State University. Her major study interests are food insecurity and food systems, but she also has a strong interest in equal access to healthcare and pediatric health. She is originally from Wanaque, NJ, but became a Montclair resident this past fall and loves living in the community.

During the day, Kayla works full time as a Lead Applicant Scheduler for Elite Healthcare Consultants where she works directly under the Lead Acquisitions manager and helps lead the team on a daily basis. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, reading, and is very passionate about music.

She is excited to join Partners for Health and assist with their learning and advocacy efforts, as well as help in supporting local communities.

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Daytime Warming Centers Open In Montclair Until Spring

Daytime warming centers in three Montclair locations are now open for individuals without a permanent home at the Salvation Army, Toni’s Kitchen, and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Montclair (staffed by Montclair Emergency Services for Hope, Inc., or MESH). The sites will be available parts of each day, seven days a week, through April 3rd.

The four organizations involved in the program in 2021 met to discuss requirements for 2022 and approached the Mayor and Township Council for funding.

The Council approved a $10,000 grant, and four local funders contributed a combined total of $11,000 to provide additional program support. The Montclair Funders include: The Montclair Foundation, The Montclair Fund for Women, Partners for Health Foundation, and The Schumann Fund for New Jersey. The funds will be used to support the three warming center locations and the participating organizations will collaborate to cover the staffing schedule.

The Montclair Funders are part of an informal network of local philanthropic organizations that meet regularly to share information about community needs, resources and opportunities to work together. The Funders began meeting in the Spring of 2020, during the early days of the pandemic, to discuss some of the most pressing issues facing the community and to explore opportunities to provide emergency support to the local safety net of nonprofit organizations. Other funders that regularly attend the meetings are the Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence, and Women for Progress.

Learn more at:

Open Space Institute Secures Deal for Creation of Greenway in Northern New Jersey

Deal reached after Open Space Institute negotiated $65 million purchase rights for nearly nine miles of former rail line and galvanized private fundraising effort.

After years of direct negotiation that led to a $65 million purchase agreement between OSI and Norfolk Southern Railway, Governor Phil Murphy announced on November 12, 2021 that the state of New Jersey would acquire the 135-acre property to create a new Greenway. The deal marks the single largest state-funded land protection project in New Jersey history.

The newly announced Greenway project will span one of the world’s most populated regions – located just across the Hudson River from Manhattan. It will create easy and equitable access to nature for millions of New Jersey residents; provide alternative transportation options; introduce green infrastructure to improve water quality; and spur economic activity.

Rendering of the proposed Essex Hudson Greenway. Courtesy of Essex Hudson Greenway

OSI assembled private funding to invest $3.9 million in the project to date. Major support for OSI’s efforts has been provided by the Thomas L. Kempner Jr. Foundation. Additional generous support came from the Helen & William Mazer Foundation, Partners for Health Foundation, and individual donors.

Click here to learn more here.

Good Food Bucks: Putting Families First

Written and submitted by: Lisa Martin, Director of Food Access, City Green

City Green’s Garden State Good Food Network (GSGFN) is a statewide farmers’ market incentive program for New Jersey’s SNAP, WIC, and Senior FMNP shoppers. Through this program, anytime a SNAP, WIC, or Senior FMNP customer uses their Families First EBT card at a participating market, they receive a dollar-for-dollar match in “Good Food Buck” incentive dollars for more fruits and vegetables. Five dollars becomes ten, and ten dollars becomes twenty. This not only doubles the purchasing power of SNAP customers, allowing them to put more food on their tables, but provides additional income support for our local farmers and producers. The GSGFN builds direct connections between the state’s nearly 750,000 SNAP recipients and over 50 local New Jersey farmers.

In 2020, our longstanding partners at the Montclair Farmers Market (MFM) offered this nutrition incentive program alongside City Green’s own Veggie Mobile Farm Stand and CSA’s programs to make healthy, local food available and affordable to everyone in 2020. Nearly 1,800 people who use SNAP, WIC, and Senior FMNP nutrition assistance benefits redeemed $25,500 of Good Food Buck incentives at City Green Veggie Mobile Farm Stands and CSA, and at the Montclair Farmers Market. The Veggie Mobile helped to bring food to a variety of partner sites throughout Passaic and Essex counties, including the Bloomfield Public Library, Caldwell Community Center, Evergreen Manor Senior Residences, Hazel St. Senior Housing, and the City Green Farm Eco-Center in Clifton.

Operating in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, unprecedented burdens were placed on businesses, families, and nearly every industry, with a record number of people applying for unemployment benefits. Through this economic hardship, a safe and reliable food supply was paramount. As more people became reliant on federal nutrition assistance programs like SNAP and WIC, incentive programs like Good Food Bucks were more essential than ever. Adrian Diaz, Montclair Farmers Market’s Double Value Coupon Coordinator, shared during the season that “The market might feel a little different in 2020 with new security measures in place, but our community can still count on Good Food Bucks every week, and this has been a breath of fresh air. During these uncertain times, the market and program have provided customers with a sense of normalcy. Every week I see customers delighted to find our tent, excited to tell me about the produce they plan on buying or their favorite recipe. Many of these customers were afraid that the program would not be available this year because of the pandemic. Others were worried that they wouldn’t be able to afford shopping at the market without Good Food Bucks. It’s comforting to know that they can still rely on our program, even in a year as difficult as this one.”

The Good Food Buck program works to give individuals and families a hand up when it can be difficult to make ends meet, while also putting money back into the local economy. A Good Food Buck shopper shared, “This program means a lot to me and my family. I want my kids to grow up eating healthy. It isn’t easy for us to buy fresh foods all the time. We never shopped at a farmers market before this year. At first it was very different for us but we really love coming here now. We’re thankful for the program and all the fresh foods we can have at home now.”

The program is a win-win-win for NJ residents, local farmers, and communities, and this funding opportunity from Partners for Health Foundation, with additional support from other private foundations, helps to make healthy, local food accessible for all of our neighbors!

Partners for Health Welcomes Three New Trustees

The Partners for Health Foundation Board of Trustees elected three new members who joined the Board on January 1, 2021. 

Diana Candelejo, MPA is the Corporate Director of Anchor Strategy for the Social Impact and Community Investment (SICI) practice at RWJBarnabas Health. With an emphasis on ensuring health equity, the SICI practice is rooted in strategic policy change, combined with evidence based and innovative programs that address the social, economic, and environmental conditions that have a significant impact on health outcomes.

Diana leads the system’s anchor mission to Hire, Buy, Invest Local. She has spearheaded the formalization of anchor initiatives at RWJBH’s pilot facility, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, and the South Ward community in Newark. She oversees the Corporate Anchor Roundtable, which is the system’s internal accountability mechanism for asset leaders to promote anchor initiatives across departments. Diana has also been working with the City of Newark to promote local hiring of qualified and educated young professionals as part of the city’s Newark 2020 initiative.

She previously worked with the Newark Community Economic Development Corporation to research and create data visualizations for their local procurement strategies that supported local, minority, and women-owned businesses.  She is also the former Curator of the Newark Global Shapers Community Hub, and has provided pro-bono consulting in the education sector.

Diana is a native Newarker and local Newark artist who splits her time between painting and promoting economic development in her community. She received a Master’s of Public Administration Degree from the London School of Economics, focusing her studies on Economic Development, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Studio Art from Drew University.

Felicia Fdyfil-Horne, LCSW is a Clinical Social Work/Therapist who is dedicated to creating a safe space for healing.  In 2015, she founded HOPE Therapeutic Services, LLC., and in 2017 she founded its non-profit branch, HOPE Lives Here Inc.  She serves as Executive Director of both organizations which are located in West Orange.             

HOPE is based on the passion and commitment to helping individuals and families find hope through the power of building their own internal and external resources. Felicia and her team of 65 clinicians help clients work toward achieving goals through the collaborative effort of utilizing therapeutic interventions. Her treatment specialties include trauma-informed care, crisis intervention, family work, abuse/neglect, peer issues, self-esteem, and self-care routine building.  

Felicia was previously an Outreach Clinician for Family Connections, Inc.  She has also worked as an independent contractor providing therapeutic services, and as a Social Worker for the Department of Veterans Affairs – HUD VASH Program.

Felicia is currently the Chair of the NASW – NJ Essex County Unit, and a Trustee of Family Connections, Inc.  She holds a Bachelor of Arts-History and American Studies Degree from the College of St. Elizabeth, and an MS in Social Work Degree from Columbia University.

Paula A. Gutierrez, MHA is the Director of Diversity & Inclusion and the Babs Siperstein PROUD Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset, part of the RWJBarnabas Health System.

Paula has over 10 years of experience in healthcare administration as well as knowledge in developing and managing internal and external diversity relations, managing employee network groups and diversity councils. She has designed and implemented programs and strategies that foster diversity, equity and inclusion such as addressing health inequities and social determinants of health in marginalized communities as well as mitigating unconscious bias in hiring and promotion, mentoring, employee resource groups, diversity target setting and other inclusion practices. 

Paula also currently serves as a Civil Rights Commissioner for Bloomfield Township; an adjunct professor at Seton Hall University’s School of Health and Medical Sciences; and sits on NJ Governor Phil Murphy’s LGBTQ+ Taskforce. In 2017, she received the Early Careerist Award from the American College of Healthcare Executives of NJ (ACHENJ).

Paula has a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from New Jersey Institute of Technology, and a Master’s Degree in Healthcare Administration from Seton Hall University. 

We Salute our Communities!

Partners for Health Foundation salutes our communities for their tremendous efforts during this difficult year!

Please enjoy this video featuring music from the Passing Notes, Montclair High School’s student-run a cappella group, and photos submitted from community partners.

Thank you!

Community Health Worker Improves Outcomes for those who are Homeless

Zufall Health Center’s Community Health Worker has been reaching out to those who are homeless and reducing barriers to seeking primary care services, made possible in part by a two-year grant from Partners for Health Foundation.

Lakshmi Silva, Zufall’s Community Health Worker, provides consistent outreach to homeless individuals in West Orange and surrounding areas, linking them with medical, human services and benefits programs to improve their health overall. She was a consistent presence at homeless shelters, soup kitchens, food pantries, early childhood agencies and government offices.

Research by the National Coalition for the Homeless, the National Alliance to End Homelessness and others has shown that poor health is inextricably linked with homelessness. Among individuals struggling to pay rent or to feed their families, an illness or disability can start a downward spiral into homelessness. Those who are homeless tend to disregard their need for care until their health conditions are dire.  They are disproportionately subject to higher rates of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma, teen pregnancy, late entry into prenatal care, childhood obesity, substance abuse, and significant disparities in cancer outcomes. 

Ms. Silva says, “My focus is to develop a plan of action that helps each homeless person, recognizing that the lack of basic needs such as food and shelter is a barrier that prevents these individuals from moving forward to stability and health.  During the past two years trusting relationships have been formed with approximately 200 homeless individuals, helping them navigate a myriad of physical and mental health issues, often accompanied by the challenges of addiction.  Building confidence and trust is the key to the program’s success; it serves as a doorway to their engagement in primary care and other services.”


Original Article can be found at the Montclair Local

Jose German writes the “Gardening for Life” column for Montclair Local and is the founder of the Northeast Earth Coalition. Shared with permission from Jose German.

The Victory Garden movement, nowadays more commonly referred to as urban farming, is very strong in Montclair.

In the past weeks, Montclair residents, facing depleted supermarket shelves and ordered to stay at home, have turned back to a tried and proven response to uncertain times: home-grown food. The Victory Garden, which helped America through two world wars, is set to make a comeback.

Victory Gardens are a natural strategy for coping with this pandemic: growing vegetables on one’s own ground brings people outdoors, with no   chance of being infected.

The Victory Garden has a long history. People may remember it from World War II, but it actually began earlier.

The first Victory Garden movement was born during World War I, when farmers were called to battle and farms became battlefields of the Great War. With a severe food crisis affecting Europe, the United States assumed the role of feeding millions of starving Europeans. 

Charles Lathrop Pack, one of the wealthiest men in the country, began organizing the Victory Garden movement weeks before the United States joined the war in 1917. 

Pack encouraged Americans to plant all available land, including yards, schoolyards, parks, and vacant lots, to grow food to support the war effort. Pack’s efforts were very effective, with a total of 5.2 million new garden plots cultivated by 1918.

The movement lost popularity after the armistice, only to re-emerge stronger than ever with the United States’ entry into the Second World War in 1941. 

Interestingly, the Department of Agriculture was not initially happy with this initiative. However, first lady Eleanor Roosevelt helped to jump-start the movement by creating a Victory Garden on the White House lawn, and by 1944 around 20 million Victory Gardens produced more than 40 percent of fresh fruits and vegetables consumed in the country. 

Victory Gardens were seen as a way for Americans on the home front to support the struggle against fascism, with the added benefit of supplementing diets in a time of food rationing. The war’s end in 1945, along with the postwar obsession with large-scale industrialized agriculture, brought about the second demise of this inspiring movement.

Bob McLean works in his garden.

Montclair is well-known for residents gardening at home to produce their own food. Bob McLean, who moved to Montclair with his parents in the 1920s, told this author he planted his first garden at age 6, “buying seeds with three cents my parents gave me.” McLean passed away in 2011.

McLean’s garden was impressive, as was the quality of his soil. His yard, he said, was eight inches higher than his neighbors’ yards as a result.  McLean was a pioneer, and his garden inspired neighbors for decades. 

Pat Kenschaft’s house is just across the street from McLean’s on Gordonhurst Avenue. 

“In this time of quarantine the garden is the thing that is keeping me sane,” Kenschaft said. She is known to many in Montclair as an activist for growing food at home, and has inspired many people with her organic garden, sharing her gardening journey through open garden tours and via email. 


“My garden is still thriving,” Kenschaft said. “Four decades ago I was sick and ready to go on disability, and my daughter suggested that I start a garden, which I did. In a phenomenal way, gardening transformed my life.”

One of the new Victory Gardens in Montclair was made by Lily Becker, 20, a sophomore at Cornell University. Becker returned to Montclair when her university closed due to coronavirus and made use of her free time to create a backyard vegetable garden with eight raised beds – and install a chicken coop. 

“I want to inspire people my age about being sustainable and growing your own food,” Becker said. The garden will provide all the veggies her family needs, not to mention those eggs. As a young woman, Becker feels the overwhelming pressure to take action against the climate crisis, and home food production is a start. 

The coronavirus pandemic was the trigger motivating her to be ready in case of a food shortage. “I need to send a message to my peers in college and in my community that this is the right thing to do,” she said.

In addition to backyard — or front yard — vegetable gardens at private homes, organizations in town have created community gardens to support families in need and food programs for those without space to grow their own. 

Lily Becker in her Victory Garden. COURTESY EMILY BECKER

In 2017, as part of an Eagle Scout project, Montclair High School students created a community garden at Rand Park that, like most such gardens in town, donates the produce to local food pantries. Becker helped create that garden. 

Leading organizations promoting community gardens in Montclair include A Lot to Grow, Montclair Community Farms, and the Northeast Earth Coalition (NEEC). Partners for Health Foundation, a local nonprofit organization promoting healthy diets, supports many of the community gardens in Montclair. 

Along with Cornucopia Network of New Jersey, a local organization supporting local food production, Partners for Health partially funded a new community garden developed by the NEEC’s Urban Growers Program on Pine Street at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. 

This garden is unique since it provides food for three refugee families from Central America who live on the premises. Each family has its own plot, and they have already planted the garden with peas, lettuce, cilantro, potatoes, carrots, onions, and radishes, among other veggies. 

Of the 12 raised beds in the garden, six are dedicated to the Toni’s Kitchen food program.  

In times of crisis, Americans have turned to Victory Gardens. This movement, born of war, continues to inspire people today in the face of the coronavirus struggle, helping families to grow their own organic food steps from their kitchens.


  1. Find a spot in your yard that receives at least six hours of direct sun.
  1. Make a raised bed of natural wood, since treated wood has arsenic, which contaminates the soil. Set up at least three raised beds 5-feet-by-4-feet each or the size of your preference.If you have a small space, containers will do.
  1. Get organic soil, available in your preferred nursery, and a bag of compost to be mixed with the soil. Each raised bed would need a minimum of four bags of soil. 
  1. Get seeds (preferably non-GMO). Heirloom seeds are best.
  1. Include seeds for vegetables that grow in both cool and warm seasons.  During cool season you can grow lettuce, arugula, parsley, kale, beans, radishes, carrots, potatoes, collard greens, broccoli and anything in the family of cabbage, among others. In warm weather (May to September) you can grow corn,  tomatoes, beans, summer lettuce, eggplants, peppers, cucumbers, etc.  Remember that everything that you planted in the spring is good to be planted in the fall. 
  1. If you lack the patience to grow from seeds, you can buy seedlings from a local nursery.
  1. If critters are a problem, protect your garden with a fence or a net.

Rita Bettenbender Memorial Fund Honors Legacy of MILL Film Class Instructor

When the Montclair Institute for Lifelong Learning launched in March 2015, Rita Bettenbender’s Film Class was among its first offerings.  Rita passed away in January 2020 and to honor her legacy, the MILL has created the Rita Bettenbender Memorial Fund.  Donations to the fund will support future film classes in Rita’s memory, and will be eligible for a match from Partners for Health Foundation.

“Rita helped launch the MILL in a successful direction. Her classes were not only popular, but Rita’s teaching truly embodied the spirit of the MILL with her insights and ability to facilitate and moderate thoughtful discussion,” said Katie York, Director of Senior Services/Lifelong Montclair, Department of Health & Human Services for the Township of Montclair.

According to one of her MILL students, Rita was, “A unique woman with incredible knowledge about her subject.  Not only did I look forward to movies I would otherwise never have seen but the interesting and sometimes heated discussions that followed were always informative and entertaining.” 

Click here to make a donation to the Rita Bettenbender Memorial Fund.

Checks, payable to Partners for Health, may also be mailed to:

Pam Scott, Executive Director        
Partners for Health Foundation
54 Plymouth Street
Montclair, NJ 07042

Click here for Rita Bettenbender’s obituary

Cliff Finkle Elected PfH Board Chair!

Please join us in welcoming PFH’s new Board Chair, Clifford B. Finkle IV!

Cliff joined the PFH Board in 2014, and has served as Finance Chair since 2015 and First Vice Chair since 2016.  Additionally, Cliff sits on the Foundation’s Nominating and Strategic Planning Committees.

Cliff Finkle is a Senior Vice President with EVO Transportation and Energy Services.  Prior to joining EVO, Cliff was a Principal at Clifford B. Finkle Jr. Inc. and Finkle IV Freight and Logistics.  He joined Clifford B. Finkle Jr. Inc. in 2004 and founded Finkle IV Freight in 2006.  Cliff received his MBA from Georgetown University and a B.S. from Lehigh University. Between Lehigh and Georgetown, he worked for Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America.

Cliff and his wife Alexis moved to Montclair in 2004 after living in New York, San Francisco and Washington, DC. Alexis and Cliff have a son Pierce, who is 13 and a daughter, Skylar, who is 10. 


To celebrate our 10th anniversary, Partners for Health Foundation awarded 10 Community Impact Awards, and grants totaling $100,000, to recognize nonprofit organizations and individuals making a significant difference in the health and well-being of local communities. A video produced that evening tells the story of several of the Awardees, what inspires them, what they’ve been able to accomplish, and what they aspire to achieve. Pam Scott, Partners for Health Foundation’s executive director, notes, “Their collective stories portray dedicated advocates, volunteers, caregivers, unsung heroes and leaders, along with the tens of thousands of lives they touch.”

The awards were presented at a celebratory event emceed by Jim Axelrod, Senior National Correspondent for CBS News.

John Fromhold honored at 2019 Golf Tournament

Partners for Health was proud to recognize John Fromhold, CEO of Hackensack Meridian Mountainside Medical Center, as the honoree of the Foundation’s Annual Golf Tournament on July 16, 2019.

Since 2008, Partners for Health Foundation has made grants totaling $3.6 million to address Hunger & Homelessness in Montclair and surrounding communities.  Sponsorship support of the Golf outing by Hackensack Meridian Health Mountainside Medical Center – the event’s exclusive, PREMIER Sponsor – has helped us to make a difference in the lives of countless families who struggle to put food on the table and those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.   

In 2007, John Fromhold was instrumental in identifying the hospital (formerly known as Mountainside) as an acquisition candidate for Merit Health Systems, a private company based in Louisville, KY, where he was a partner and Senior Vice President. He subsequently relocated to New Jersey to assume the role of CEO and personally oversee the hospital’s transformation.  Since the acquisition of Merit, the hospital has undergone a successful and dramatic revitalization, without sacrificing the integrity of the 125+ year old hospital, or the special, distinctive spirit of community and cooperation that sets it apart from others. 

Recognizing that network affiliations were becoming increasingly essential to maintaining clinical excellence and financial viability, in 2012 he was instrumental in negotiating the sale of Mountainside to a not-for-profit/for-profit joint venture network between Hackensack University Medical Center and LHP Hospital Group, now Hackensack Meridian Health and Ardent Health Services.  Prior to joining Merit, John was a Group Vice President for Community Health Systems with direct responsibility for 13 hospitals in five states.  He also held senior management positions with Humana and HCA.  He is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives.

John and his wife Cheryl live in Verona, New Jersey and have four sons and two granddaughters.

Partners for Health Welcomes Sara Elnakib to the Board

The Partners for Health Foundation Board of Trustees elected Sara Elnakib to the Board for a three-year term, effective January 2019. 

Sara has worked in community nutrition for more than 10 years. She joined the Rutgers Cooperative Extension in the Department of Family and Community Health Sciences as an Assistant Professor in January 2015. As part of her role as a member of the Passaic County Food Policy Council, she focuses on food insecurity and improving food access within the County.  Sara is also interested in food waste in institutional settings and how behavioral economics can be leveraged to reduce food waste.

Prior to the faculty appointment at Rutgers University, Sara served as the Health and Nutrition Director for a Head Start Program in Montclair, and as an Adjunct Professor at Montclair State University. She is currently a doctoral candidate in the Rutgers University, School of Public Health. She earned her Bachelors of Science from Rutgers University in Nutritional Science and a Masters of Public Health in Health Education and Behavioral Science from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

Farm Camp paintings inspire holiday greetings!


In August 2018, Karen DeLuca, a local artist, art instructor and graphic designer, spent two mornings at the Montclair Community Farms “Farm Camp.”  She invited the campers, ages 7-11, to paint images informed by their one-week camp experience. 

Fresh vegetables, fruits and flowers that were picked on the farm – along with eggs, honey and honeycombs – were arranged in the center of their work space.  Karen gave a basic art lesson on the placement and size of a subject on the page, and working with colors and their values. She also explained how to mix basic colors to get others.  The campers did a light sketch and then the painting began with real enthusiasm!


The Montclair Community Farm’s “Farm Camp” is a summer program that focuses on food access, farm work and challenges and opportunities in our food system. Campers also prepare food for local pantries.



The Montclair Community Farm Coalition engages the community in sustainable agriculture and affordable food access. Members include HOMECorp, Montclair Department of Health and Human Services, Montclair History Center, Montclair State University, Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Essex County: Essex 4-H and Master Gardeners, and Montclair Public Schools gardening program, DIGS.


The Coalition is funded in part by Partners for Health as part of the Foundation’s efforts to address local hunger by increasing access to affordable fresh, local produce. Funding is also provided by the USDA and community members. 

Learn more about Montclair Community Farms and “Farm Camp” at:


Berkeley Elementary School in Bloomfield implements Breakfast After the Bell program

Many students who attend Bloomfield elementary schools qualify for a free breakfast. but many of those students aren’t able to get to school early to receive the meal. 

Berkeley Elementary School is now implementing a new pilot of “Breakfast after the Bell” through a partnership with Bloomfield Department of Health and Human Services. The school hosted a kick-off and registration event on Wednesday, August 29th. 

Kudos to Bloomfield Township for making sure their students are free from hunger during the school day!

To learn more about the event click here or watch the videos below. 

Partners for Health Welcomes 4 New Trustees

Chris Petermann, Board Chair, is pleased to welcome four Trustees to the Partners for Health Foundation Board. “We’re delighted to have the expertise and diverse perspectives of these new Board members and are confident their contributions will enhance our work.”

Lisa Amato returns to the Partners for Health following a two-year hiatus, having previously served on the Foundation Board from 2008-2015. She is also on the Boards of the Montclair Art Museum and KIPP New Jersey. KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) is part of a non-profit network of college-preparatory, free, public charter schools educating elementary, middle and high school students. In addition, Lisa is working with Claire Panke as a producer on the documentary film, “Light Years,” a work in progress that profiles three people and offers an antidote to outdated notions about aging. Lisa is a graduate of Pace University, where she earned a BBA Degree in Accounting. She and her husband, Joe, have three children and they live in Essex Fells and New York City.

Katherine M. Kelly is an advocacy and public policy professional with more than 15 years of experience working to end homelessness and build stronger communities. She is currently an Associate with Monarch Housing Associates in Cranford, NJ. Kate previously worked as the Reaching Home Campaign Manager for Partnership for Stronger Communities in Hartford, CT. She holds a BA Degree in Government from the University of Notre Dame, and she graduated from the University of Connecticut School of Social Work, where she earned her Masters of Social Work. Kate is active in her hometown of Verona, serving as a Trustee of the Verona Public Library, a Brownie troop leader, and a fundraising volunteer for the Brookdale Avenue School SCA. She and her husband David Ten Broeck, have two daughters.

Beverly M. Riddick is Executive Director of the Ready To Work Business Collaborative (RTWBC), an employer coalition that develops hiring best practices targeted at ready to work talent, with a focus on those who are overlooked despite being re-skilled or up-skilled to meet the needs of today’s evolving economy. She previously served for 20 years as the Executive Director of Homes of Montclair Ecumenical Corp (HOMECorp), where she was responsible for the development and implementation of community revitalization programs and initiatives for low, moderate and middle income families. Prior to this, Beverly was a real estate/workout banking specialist at First National Bank of Boston (now Bank of America) and later at Chemical Bank New Jersey (now PNC Bank). She is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College where she majored in Urban Studies. Following Mount Holyoke, she was awarded a twelve-month fellowship to the Coro Foundation. She later obtained a Master’s Degree in Public Policy Analysis at Claremont Graduate University. Beverly and her husband Ron have 2 children; they reside in Montclair.

Tekeyah S. Sears, EdD, MPH is an Adjunct Faculty member in the Department of Public Health at William Paterson University in Wayne, and at Montclair State University in Montclair. Her teaching focus is on helping students make healthier decisions in key areas including mental health, stress management, sexuality, addiction, diet, weight management and fitness. She is also the Founder and CEO of the I “AM” Project, which creates a space where young women can be inspired and empowered on the values of leadership, mentorship, self-love and sisterhood. Her previous jobs include positions with Public Health Solutions and the AIDS Service Center of Lower Manhattan, both located in New York City; and ASPIRA, Inc. and St. Michael’s Medical Center, both in Newark. Tekeyah holds a Doctor of Education from Columbia University, Teachers College; and two degrees from Pennsylvania State University: a Master’s in Public Health and a B.S. in BioBehavioral Health. She lives in Orange.

Pictured above (left to right): Beverly Riddick, Lisa Amato, Kate Kelly and Tekeyah Sears

More than $1.3 million in tax refunds to community members through EITC efforts!

As New Jersey continues to struggle with a poor economy marked by high rates of unemployment, foreclosures, and an increasing cost of living, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) remains a crucial lifeline for low-income families. By lifting families out of poverty and giving a boost to local economies, the EITC is a vital tax credit for the more than 600,000 working New Jerseyans who rely on it ‘to make ends meet.’ Unfortunately, many families are unaware that the EITC even exists, or that they are eligible for these tax credits. In other instances, they spend hundreds of dollars paying high cost tax preparers for services that are available for free at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites.

In response to this need, Partners for Health Foundation partnered with New Jersey Citizen Action and United Way of Northern New Jersey for the second year in a row to provide free tax preparation services to make it easier for community members to take full advantage of tax credits that are due to them.

New Jersey Citizen Action Education Fund (NJCAEF) worked out of the Bloomfield Public Library and coordinated weekly tax preparation appointments. They provided free tax preparation services on designated days throughout the 2017 tax season and prepared returns for 226 individuals and families.

In total, $560,041 in refunds were made, with $148,648 in federal and NJ EITC! 

United Way of Northern New Jersey engaged both a Community Outreach Coordinator and a Savings Specialist in suburban Essex County to increase awareness of and access to their Free Tax and Savings Program and to help low and moderate income local residents set savings goals and become savers. The Outreach Coordinator built on the work begun in 2016 to reach out to businesses and organizations in non-profit, healthcare, housing, government, child care, and faith communities. These outreach activities resulted in a 5% increase in returns completed at their Montclair location.

Of the 661 clients who received free tax preparation services through the United Way, 133 clients received EITC.

Combined, these programs resulted in refunds totaling $817,379, with $240,652 in federal and NJ EITC!


Partners for Health Foundation is grateful to both New Jersey Citizen Action and the United Way of Northern New Jersey for their efforts to secure more than $1.3 million in tax refunds to our community members through this EITC initiative during the past two years.

New Jersey Bike and Walk Coalition opens second bike depot in New Jersey

New Jersey Bike and Walk Coalition opened a bike depot on March 24th at Bloomfield’s Glenwood Avenue Parking Garage, steps away from the NJ Transit train station. The organization’s first bike depot opened two years ago at Montclair’s Bay Street Station.  The Montclair depot can accommodate up to 24 bicycles and is near capacity!  A third depot is planned for Elizabeth’s Midtown Garage in late summer.

Bike depots provide safe, secure and weather-protected parking and storage. The Bloomfield depot is equipped with 38 racks, and features a repair station for minor bike maintenance.

Click here to read more about the Bloomfield Bike Depot.


Pictured from left to right: Bloomfield Mayor, Michael Venezia, Bloomfield Councilman Nick Joanow, and Freeholder Brendan Gill

Oral Health in New Jersey: How to Build Stronger Teeth, Healthier Lives

On Wednesday, November 2nd, 2 p.m. NJ Spotlight hosted a webinar on Oral Health in New Jersey: How to Build Stronger Teeth, Healthier Lives.

A growing body of research illustrates that dental care is critical not just to preserve a pretty smile; oral health is essential to good nutrition. Deteriorating teeth and gums can contribute to other chronic health issues, and dental problems cause children in America to lose 50 million hours of school each year and adults to miss 164 million hours at work, according to a surgeon general report.

And while New Jersey has one of the nation’s most robust healthcare infrastructures, good oral health remains out of reach for far too many residents, including a high number of families living in poverty.

This NJ Spotlight webinar focused on the current status of oral health in the Garden State, how we got here, and how we can improve on the status quo. A panel of experts with state and national experience discussed the importance of oral care, problems with access and affordability, how insurance coverage impacts these issues, and pilot projects that show promise, in New Jersey and elsewhere.


Juliana David – Oral Health Program Director, NJ Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics

Dr. Sidney Whitman – Pediatric Dentist and Chair, New Jersey Oral Health Coalition

Stacey Chazin – Director of Prevention Programs, Center for Health Care Strategies

Moderated by Lilo Stainton, Healthcare Reporter, NJ Spotlight


Watch a video of the webinar here:

Mobile Farm Stand Readied for Veggie Sales

By Montclair Community Farm Coalition

Thanks to Professional Woodworkers Guild of Upper New Jersey, the Montclair Community Farm Coalition now has a mobile farm stand to take local produce from its farm sites to area seniors.  The Coalition operates two primary microfarm sites – one behind the HOMECorp building on Miller Street and one at the Montclair Historical Society on Orange Road.  This summer we will be selling produce at affordable prices to seniors by setting up shop in the farm stand at Montclair’s senior housing buildings.

For the 2016 season the Mobile Farm Stand will be operating Fridays on the following dates:

  • June 3, 10, 17 & 24
  • July 1, 8, 15, 22 & 29
  • August 5, 12, 19 & 26
  • September 2, 9 & 16
  • October 7, 21

We will rotate to 4 locations each Friday in the following order:

  • Our first stop will be at First House Montclair, 56 Walnut St, Montclair, NJ 07042 @ Noon
  • Second stop will be at Pine Ridge, 60 Glenridge Ave, Montclair, NJ 07042 @ 1pm
  • Third stop will be The Senior Center at Edgemont Memorial Park, 274 Valley Road, Montclair, NJ 07042 @ 2pm
  • Following our visits to local senior centers, our mobile farm stand will be open at our Montclair Historical Society location, 108 Orange Road, from 3 – 6pm every Friday starting July 1st.

Community members are welcome to visit us at any of the listed sites at the designated times.  Seniors will receive a discount card during their first visit to the stand.

The Montclair Community Farm Coalition consists of local organizations committed to engaging the community in farming, food, agricultural and nutrition education. These local community farms are hands-on resources to create a healthy food environment to support healthy food and lifestyle choices. The members of the Montclair Community Farm Coalition are HOMECorp, Montclair Health Department, Montclair Historical Society, Montclair State University, and Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Essex County: Essex 4-H and Master Gardeners.

The Professional Woodworkers Guild of Upper New Jersey built the farm stand using reclaimed lumber in the carpentry shop of Matthew Weiss, MCW Carpentry, LLC, current president of the guild.  Other members of the guild, who contributed their time to help with the construction are: James Scott of MCW Carpentry, Harold Katchen of HK Carpentry and Home Improvements, Frank Mangravite Ph.D. of Public Works Management LLC, and Glen Guarino of Guarino Furniture Designs, an award-winning furniture designer and Professor at Kean University.

To see our Mobile Farm Stand in action, click here!logo

Mobile Farm Stand 1

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.