NJ and You – Perfect Together! And perfect it was for the Safe Routes Partnership’s first state network project retreat on October 9th – 12th in Morristown, NJ. In full disclosure, I have some personal bias; I am a life-long NJ resident. But the venue selection was balanced by the facts: NJ is great, the Safe Routes Partnership has NJ as one of our seven network states and our state network project funder – the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)– is also located in NJ.
So the fates aligned in NJ’s favor and our team of seven state advocacy organizers (from CA, FL, MS, NC, NJ, OH and TN), Safe Routes Partnership staff directors and our RWJF program officer, Jamie Bussel, met with the objectives of:
- Team building – Increasing the synergy and network among our seven state advocacy staff. Based on the immediate energy and camaraderie you would never guess that this was the first face-to-face meeting our state team has had.
- Deepen understanding of our role in supporting the RWJF program objectives - Special thanks to Jamie Bussel for her robust and insightful presentation which synthesized how the Safe Routes Partnership’s work fits within the larger policy goals and vision of the RWJF for reversing the epidemic of childhood obesity by 2015. We all benefited by being reminded of the big picture and how essential the diverse collaborations are in addressing the unique and complex challenges of this epidemic.
- Enhance advocacy strategies around key policy objectives - Our RWJF grant-funded policy priorities are: award and obligation of Safe Routes to School funding, advancement of Complete Street polices and advancement of joint/shared use policies (all with a focus on serving lower-income communities and schools).
- Enhance communications, storytelling and campaign advancement skills – We built on our staff’s expertise and “Spitfire Strategies”.
Whew! These were audacious objectives! Yet based on the feedback from the team I am pleased to brag that we met our objectives…and left with many ideas, actions items and an ever increasing passion for advancing Safe Routes to School initiatives as an indispensable tool for reversing childhood obesity!
In addition to all of our hard work, we did have the opportunity to enjoy a night out and explore historic Morristown with some of our NJ partners. Our NJ advocacy organizer, Laura Torchio, outdid herself in coordinating a guided walking tour of Morristown with 11 of our NJ partners (listed below), followed by a fabulous group dinner (free advertising for Marjan Persian Grill – excellent food and service). Many thanks to Laura and our NJ friends for providing our state network team with a warm NJ-welcome!
So until we meet again…please keep up with all of the great work our state team is doing by reading our blogs, visiting our state pages (CA, FL, MS, NC, NJ, OH and TN) and becoming a partner of the Safe Routes Partnership!
NJ Partners Who Joined Us in Morristown:
- Stefan Armington, Morristown Council (and Margarita Armington)
- Leigh Ann Von Hagen, Senior Research Specialist, Voorhees Transportation Center (VTC)
- Maeve Johnston, Projector Coordinator, VTC
- Sean Meehan, Program Manager, VTC
- Tiffany Robinson, The RBA Group
- Kendra Arnold, Marty Epstein, Marcy Needle, Douglas Vorolieff - Bike and Walk Morristown
- Irene Avlonitis - friend
Safe Routes Partnership Staff in Attendance
- Deb Hubsmith - Executive Director from CA
- Beth Richards, Development Director from NH
- Kristine Kessel, Network Director from NJ
- Robert Ping, Technical Assistance Director from OR
- Jeanie Ward-Waller, CA Advocacy Organizer
- Terry Lansdell, NC Advocacy Organizer
- Christy Smith, TN Advocacy Organizer
- Jay Thompson, MS Advocacy Organizer
- Laura Torchio, NJ Advocacy Organizer
- Kate Moening, OH Advocacy Organizer
- Carol Pulley, FL Advocacy Organizer