Neighborhood Connections to Health Creates Connections while Staying Six Feet Apart

NJHI 2016: Building a Culture of Health in New Jersey – Communities Moving to Action, Round 2 Neighborhood Connections to Health

Neighborhood Connections to Health (NCTH) had to shift its operations, community outreach methods and the delivery of service due to the ongoing COVID-19 response. Initially, our new reality provided a growing source of concern and uneasiness as NCTH entered uncharted waters. The last few months have solidified that NCTH is not just making a difference in Freehold but also growing its network and support. Amid uncertainty, NCTH has found a bright spot while creating unanticipated connections with new partners.

Early in the response, the growing need for food resources within the Freehold community was staggering.  At the same time, our partners’ concern for safely staffing and hosting food distribution events was a constant point of discussion and planning. NCTH helped to facilitate a call for volunteers that yielded nearly 80 community members willing to assist with food distribution, deliveries and supporting our local partners. These individuals began to step up, just as we were all told to stay home and quarantine. This spirit of community has only grown through the last five months and NCTH has gained more than 30 new coalition members as a result. We initially had concerns with recruiting enough volunteers, but now we cannot keep them away!  The connections, friendships, and selfless support of so many are at the core of how NCTH hopes to create unity within the community.

Front line volunteers can often articulate the realities best. One volunteer, Denise, has helped at nearly every food distribution event since early April. She described her experience with NCTH:

“I was glad to get involved once I saw how much [NCTH’s] hard work was needed in the community.  It really centers you and makes you want to do more.  Seeing the huge need for assistance in the community and what an amazing job all the staff and the community members are doing made me want to stay around and contribute however I could. It has been great for me to do my small part, while also getting help from this wonderful neighborhood community. It is fantastic to see neighbors getting and giving help while forming fantastic friendships and connections.”

Another volunteer, Nancylee, identifies her motivations for joining the coalition’s COVID-19 response efforts:

“I have been extremely fortunate in my life, although I remember the difficulties my parents faced to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. I am grateful I do not have to struggle in the same way and I believe that ‘to whom much is given, much will be required.’ So, I looked for a way to give to those who were struggling and the coalition has welcomed me.”

In the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, our coalition met Wagner Menendez. His passion and dedication to serving our community quickly became evident. Wagner now formally serves as the NCTH Social Media Consultant. 

“From this experience I have been able to see how helping others unites us and betters our community,” he said.  “Being part of this project has really made me realize how important it is to help others when they are in need and I take joy in helping people during these hard times. I am very eager to see what will continue to happen in the Freehold community.” 

Neighborhood Connections to Health would be unable to accomplish its mission without the trust and support from the Freehold community.  Often, when there are challenges, a person or group’s true spirit can shine through.  Freehold is showing its true colors and NCTH continues to benefit from the dedication and tireless support from so many.  We are incredibly grateful for the old and new connections and hope to strengthen each one to sustain our community as time goes on.

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Linda Brown
Neighborhood Connections To Health