The Toms River Family Health and Support Coalition has been working hard over the last five years to make Toms River a healthier community. We brought together more than 50 partners spanning the public, private and nonprofit sectors to collaborate and make an impact on the health of every Toms River resident. After much research, a community-wide listening tour, and some tweaking after the first year, we determined that Senior Isolation, Youth Emotional Wellness, Substance Use and Food Insecurity were the major, recurring issues in Toms River. We formed meaningful and valuable partnerships in our community, and together, have made an impact on the health of our town.
As we began our last year of the New Jersey Health Initiatives (NJHI) Building a Culture of Health in NJ grant, we determined that where we were making the most impact was through the support of on-the-ground organizations carrying out the work. Therefore, we decided to invite nonprofits who are working to improve the health of Toms River to apply for mini-grants ranging from $2,500 – $5,000, and we launched an application process for the funding. Then came COVID-19 and with the support of NJHI, we quickly made the decision to pivot the focus of the grants to support the COVID-19 response and the needs of the Toms River community. In total, we were able to award $70,000 in funding to 19 organizations in our community. The recipients are listed below with a brief description of their programs.
Toms River Family Health & Support Coalition Mini-Grant Recipients
A Need We Feed – Funding support for the feeding of groups such as Big Brothers Big Sisters “littles” and their families, and the Toms River Municipal Alliance Senior Center for homebound Ocean County Seniors by partnering with local Toms River restaurants to purchase deviated priced menu items.
Caregiver Volunteers of Central Jersey – Funding will support the “Keeping our Connection: COVID-19 Response,” ensuring vulnerable, homebound seniors are provided with the best resources to help them throughout this uncertain time – including medication, transportation, and food/grocery needs.
Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Ocean County – Funding support for foster kids/families with computers and technology to remain connected, as well as gift cards for food and basic necessities.
Children’s Specialized Hospital Foundation – This award supports the continued expansion of telehealth in the Toms River area.
Community Medical Center Foundation – This grant provides support for personal protection equipment (PPE) for nurses, doctors, and staff throughout Community Medical Center, including N-95 masks, medical gowns and disposable shoe covers.
CONTACT of Ocean & Monmouth Counties – Funding support for the Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Hotline and the First Call for Help Information Referral Hotline.
Fulfill (formally The FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties) – This award provides support for Crisis Relief boxes, which allow agencies to ensure the most vulnerable portion of the population can continue to access basic food.
Hackensack Meridian Health – Ocean Medical Center Foundation – Funding support for equipment and supplies to keep front-line workers safe and to effectively provide patient care.
Hope Sheds Light – Funding support for “Take Control of Your Health” which is a weekly, evidence based, peer-led program that gives people with chronic conditions and/or their caregivers the knowledge, skills and confidence to take a more active role in their health care.
The Hope Center – House of Hope of Ocean County, Inc. – This support will provide emergency shelter, rental assistance, and nutritious food through the Center’s food pantry and community garden to those imminently at risk of losing their housing or are experiencing homelessness.
Integrity, Inc. – Support for Zoom for Healthcare accounts that will provide vulnerable individuals with the care and resources they need, to prevent incidents of future preventable drug overdoses and save lives.
Ocean County YMCA – Funding support to address the emergent needs of the senior community during the YMCA’s closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ocean Mental Health Services – Supporting efforts to increase access to needed telehealth equipment to continue providing essential medical, substance use and mental healthcare to current and new agency consumers.
Ocean’s Harbor House – Funding will support supplemental food cost assistance for Harbor House’s Supervised Transitional Living Program (STLP) youth residents, as well as support an online counseling platform as a resource for youth clients through the Family Crisis Intervention Unit.
Preferred Behavioral Health Group – Funding support for technology that will provide enhanced outreach and services to senior clients, who with their advanced ages and underlying medical conditions, are not able to leave their homes for group therapy or counseling.
The Salvation Army – Funding for the Mobile Canteen that is supporting frontline healthcare workers doing COVID-19 testing at Ocean County College. In addition, the award supports the food pantry and the takeout community kitchen.
Senior Citizens Activities Network, Inc. – Providing support to deploy a phone-based service program to address senior isolation in Toms River and meet older residents’ immediate needs.
St. Francis Community Center – Funding support to serve the immediate needs of program participants who reside in the Toms River area who are in need of healthy food options and essential items.
Toms River Police Foundation – Providing support of a letter-writing campaign and the delivery of restaurant-purchased meals with encouraging notes to senior communities.
We were very transparent that priority would be given to COVID-19 related applications. And while some nonprofits had already submitted their applications, we allowed them to revise their proposed work and shift their focus to address needs related to COVID-19. Most of our applicants did, and almost all the COVID-19 mini-grant requests fell under the categories of Senior Isolation, Youth Emotional Wellness, Substance Use or Food Insecurity. Final decisions for funding were made by a consensus vote of all active Review Committee members. Due to the severity of the pandemic, we were also able to speed up the turnaround time for distributing funds.
All of the nonprofits who applied are working hard to create a healthy community and while we wish we could have funded everyone, we had to make some difficult decisions. We are confident these organizations will make an impact during this health crisis and beyond.