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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:

Updated: Aug 13, 2019

LOOK what we have! Holly City Development will be spearheading a Little Free Library project throughout Center City Millville! STAY TUNED for updates!

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