Middle Earth is proud to participate in a few different community-building efforts in Bound Brook and South Bound Brook that is funded by New Jersey Health Initiatives, the statewide grantmaking program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Student Ambassadors for Community Health
We partner with the Somerset County 4-H Youth Development Program to harness the energy, knowledge and idealism of our local youth to prepare them as future leaders while learning to address barriers to health in their own communities.
4-H and Middle Earth form a team of approximately 10 youth each year. They work together with town officials and agencies to identify social factors that impact a community’s overall health. Once they have chosen a health challenge unique to their local area, they use existing tools and their own creativity to address the issue to improve the area. The Student Ambassador program instills skills in leadership, business, government operations, public speaking, problem-solving, teamwork, and creativity.
In 2018, the first group of Student Ambassadors created a parklet, street murals and colorful crosswalks near schools to improve street safety. Studies show that improving street safety in an area also improves the mental health of the area residents. Their work earned eight different awards from our state, county, and 4-H! In 2019, the next group of Student Ambassadors chose to revitalize Mariposa Park, and create a bilingual “storybook trail” leading to the park, to promote unity in the community, healthy living for residents, safety for younger children, and revitalization of the surrounding neighborhood. In 2020, the students created a website addressing mental health issues exacerbated by the pandemic, and also made improvements to Mariposa Park, including installing a Free Food Pantry.
This program was launched and originally funded by New Jersey Health Initiatives (NJHI), the statewide grantmaking program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. To learn more about the NJHI: Next Generation Community Leaders initiative, visit njhi.org or participate in the conversation online with the hashtag #NJLeaders2030. In 2030, the youth participating in NJHI: Next Generation Community Leaders will be 29-31 years old, poised to expand their impact as effective leaders, and one election cycle away from meeting the minimum age requirement for a U.S. presidential bid.
The Bound Brook Families for Success Program
We are the lead agency in a multi-agency partnership designed to assist immigrant families with children in becoming successful in the community using a “whole family approach.” The program uses existing resources from Somerset County agencies, nonprofits, and schools to combine the key elements of education, mental wellness, and employment into a comprehensive program uniquely tailored to each individual family’s needs.
The program accepts referrals from any agency or school in the community. A case manager meets with the family to establish goals and connect them with services. The services would depend on each individual family’s needs but could include after-school programs, employment readiness, financial literacy, legal advocacy, tutoring, literacy workshops, and more.
NJ Health Initiatives
This grant funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation,“Building Bridges to Health” supports current health programs in Bound Brook and South Bound Brook, including farmers’ markets, walkability, health services for children and adults, after-school programs, and community health education. The Bound Brooks Initiative addresses healthcare concerns including access to healthier food options, transportation, and access to medical coverage.
The Bound Brooks Initiative is supported by these Healthier Somerset coalition members:
- American Lung Association Pediatric/Adult Asthma Coalition of New Jersey
- Middle Earth
- Middle-Brook Regional Health Commission
- Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset
- Rutgers Cooperative Extension Family and Community Health Sciences
This team works closely with community organizations, including faith-based organizations, schools and community businesses. You can learn more about this initiative by either visiting the Healthier Somerset website or reading our Blueprint for Action for addressing Bound Brook’s challenges.