August 28, 2020 / Connecting Families to Communities




When the pandemic impacted their plans for PlayStreets programming, the Holly City Development Corporation partners provided themed activity kits to Millville families to help them stay active. For the past four years, Holly City Development Corporation (HCDC) has partnered with many organizations in the City of Millville to bring the PlayStreets program to neighborhood children. Traditionally for six weeks during July and August, a city block is shut down on Wednesdays between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Each week a different lead organization runs the program according to a theme such as Arts & Culture, Public Safety, Summer Fit and Fun, Carnival, Christmas in July and a Back-to-School BBQ where the kids receive free backpacks. Last year, we engaged more than 1300 kids over a six-week period. The kids look forward to a safe place where they can play, do craft projects, play games, and run through the spray of a fire hydrant. Every child also receives lunch.


At the request of Millville residents, HCDC and our partners planned to expand PlayStreets and provide additional interactive activities and learning experiences this summer. Then the COVID-19 crisis happened.By May, it was evident we were not going to be able to host PlayStreets programming.

It was a hard decision to make because we did not want to disappoint the kids.

Our team met virtually and decided we had to figure out a way to bring the PlayStreets experience to the children in our community. We decided to stick to our original schedule and themes. We also decided to limit registration to 300 children. Our announcement spread on social media and registration was filled in less than 24 hours!

Our team met virtually and decided we had to figure out a way to bring the PlayStreets experience to the children in our community. We decided to stick to our original schedule and themes. We also decided to limit registration to 300 children. Our announcement spread on social media and registration was filled in less than 24 hours!


Each week, the lead organization created 300 themed kits of activities and challenges for children and their families to do at home. Our team met at 9 a.m. on Monday morning, picked up kits for our delivery areas and delivered the kits to the homes of the children. They were well received and it was great! The kids and parents were so appreciative.


The six weeks flew by and culminated with our distributing stuffed bookbags full of school supplies to 300 children.


Next year we hope to bring back the in-person PlayStreets experience and make it bigger than ever.

Updated: Apr 12


Members of the Millville Neighborhood Alliance, through the support of New Jersey Health Initiatives’ Upstream Action Acceleration initiative, have been working with residents to identify, and advocate for, the needs of the community. A group of local teens who participate in the SHINE Program at the First United Methodist Church in Millville have emerged as the first Community Action Group working toward building a healthier and safer community.


This group of 10 teenagers volunteer regularly in the community and have played an active role in the process to develop a new neighborhood plan for the Center City district of Millville. Through several focus groups and planning sessions, the teens identified three project areas that they believe will help improve conditions in the neighborhood and provide more recreational and educational opportunities for local youth and teens. The project areas they identified included:


  • the expansion of the summer Playstreets Program held annually for six weeks in July and August;

  • expanding the Millville Public library to include a teen room and to extend the reach of the library into the neighborhood; and

  • to increase the number of free, family events that promote positive social engagement and communication.


Currently, the group has created an action plan and budget for installing several Little Free Libraries in Center City. They are meeting and working with local organizations to express their vision for the libraries, identify locations to place them and to collect a diversity of culturally relevant book donations. They are also working with the Playstreets Planning Committee to identify new activities to bring to this year’s events, including weekly dance instruction and multicultural themes. The teens have also engaged the Millville Police Department in conversations to help build positive interactions and relationships between police officers and residents.


“The teens are so excited to implement a project of their own. They want to be able to say, ‘I did that. I helped make my community better.’ Their excitement is infectious and I can’t wait to report on the great things these kids have done and will do in the future,” says Lisa Romano, the Community Builder working with the teens.

There is an excitement in the air as residents come together to make changes in their community. Millville’s Center City residents have been meeting monthly to take on projects that will change the city’s environment. Given different project ideas, residents have formed work groups to focus on developing ideas they find meaningful.


One group is working on cleaning and greening vacant lots. They have been walking their neighborhood proactively and identifying where the clean-ups should take place. Some lots have been identified as gathering places ripe for playground renewal, garden spaces, a dog park, public art and more. These neighborhood walkabouts have given the residents a different view of their city, as they are usually driving through and not seeing the potential.


Another group has decided to breathe life into The Arts District’s main street by creating “Pop Up” events. The first will be a holiday shop featuring local artisans and their wares. They intend to continue these events with different themes. A Random Acts of Kindness dinner under the stars will take place in the spring as an opportunity for residents to come together and share a meal and fellowship.

In addition, there is a group working on a Community Garden project. They are brainstorming what will be planted, how the garden will be run, how to get students and older adults involved and where is the best location.


The residents are empowered. We are excited to see how this resident driven change unfolds. Follow this work by reaching out to our project director.


Learn more about NJHI’s approach to partnering with NJ communities in this two-minute video:


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