NORTHBOROUGH – Families and community members filled Northborough’s Ellsworth McAfee Park to play on bounce houses and learn more about town departments on Wednesday.
This marked the official launch of a new town initiative called Be Well Northborough.
“If you think of small town America, this is exactly what I’m thinking of,” Recreation Director Allie Lane said of the event. “It’s a way [for the departments] to communicate and educate and get kids and families out and introduce ourselves and let them have a good time.”
Program draws on ARPA funding
This initiative was introduced to the Northborough Board of Selectmen earlier this year.
A few months later, the selectmen voted to allocate $100,000 of its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to the program, which seeks to streamline communication and programming between town officials and departments.
Health Agent Kristin Black described the effort as an interdepartmental project aimed at helping the community recover from COVID-19.
Black and Lane are two of the town officials who are members of the Be Well Northborough Working Group.
The group also includes personnel from the police and fire departments, Northborough Family and Youth Services, the senior center, the Council on Aging, the Northborough Free Library and the school departments as well as Assistant Town Administrator Becca Meekins.
Key facets of the group’s work include connecting community members to mental health and recovery resources – such as substance use prevention – and examining opportunities to socialize and form connections.
“‘Become active in your community again’ is really the goal of the program,” Black said.
Working group collaborates
Black said the working group has been frequently meeting and discussing different initiatives that the departments are working on. Discussions also consider ways to put work under one umbrella.
As an example of this, Black noted that the health department, schools, Senior Center and Family and Youth Services all provide mental health resources.
“But we’ve never all really sat in the same room together, saying, ‘How can we do this holistically and really make sure we’re being efficient with our resources and supporting one another and complementing our efforts,’” Black said.
With some of the members of the Be Well Working Group having kids in school, they noted that kids are struggling and wondered whether the children would be able to participate in a fun event marking the start of summer.
Enter this week’s kick off event.
“That was the idea of having this event where everybody was welcome. They’re going to run into their friends. No one was left out,” Black said.
Plus, Black said it might introduce attendees to new activities in town.
Health Agent notes opportunity to reconnect
Other town departments and local organizations had booths and activities during Wednesday’s event.
The fire department had CPR training mannequins.
The recreation department passed out bags of popcorn, and Wegmans sponsored the event, providing fresh fruit and healthy snacks.
“I’m excited to see families and let people reconnect with neighbors in ways that we haven’t had opportunities [to do] in the last couple of years,” Black said.
‘We’re trying to think creatively’
In the meantime, Be Well Northborough has a calendar filled with other activities.
These include hikes led by Ken Bennet and Forest Lyford.
Jean Rogers has been holding outdoor yoga sessions at Ellsworth McAfee Park.
At the Senior Center there’s a class scheduled that will teach self-help techniques called Mindful Living During Uncertain Times.
Black said the town is hoping to stretch ARPA funds, expanding existing programs or offering free programs. She said Be Well is hoping to bring in licensed clinicians to run support groups for different age groups.
“We’re trying to think creatively and outside of the box and really engage with all residents – new to town, forever in town – and realizing that so many of our departments have so much to offer,” Black said.
For more information, visit https://www.town.northborough.ma.us/bewell.