We laugh. We listen. We learn. We build. In the later part of October, we began our community engagement meetings with the intent of engaging community members to be a part of the solution and active in realizing a better state of health and health equity. The energy from these meetings has been nothing short of amazing. Success can be measured by transforming a community from hopeless to hopeful. Each week we meet once as a community at 8:15 pm. During this hour-long conversation, we are very intentional with the flow and our direction from week to week with goals and objectives outlined. It is our intention to design the look, feel, and ultimately the content of what a community marketplace looks like in a hyperlocal setting. We are also careful to document our materials in this process to possibly duplicate our efforts in potential locations/communities in the future.


Villages Community Marketplace community meetings have become more than a gathering of minds invested in the development and execution of a grocery store. At the onset of our community meetings, community members seemed a bit hesitant as to how this was all going to work. As a matter of fact, the common denominator of individual involvement began with Coach O or the recognition of the organization but it would soon spread beyond the recruitment of our organization. After the first two weeks of our meetings, other community members started to recruit from their network for skills needed within our project. Now meetings have come alive, buzzing with life and energy, compassion, and hope. They have become what members call “therapeutic”. That is when members leave they believe they have contributed to something bigger than themselves, utilized their strengths & explored their passions, and have been inspired by the love and connection we share.  The true power of these meetings is found in the diversity of individuals. Every week, new members join from different walks of life and they have incredible insight and experience to offer. We capitalize on this diversity to facilitate rich, robust conversations and action. Thus far we have accomplished;

  • First, we identified 7 key focus areas needed to complete this project
  • Those 7 key focus areas have been broken into dedicated teams focused on accomplishing whatever is deemed necessary for that focus
  • We have included motivational and informative media in the way of youtube and masterclasses
  • We have mapped out 4 tiers of fundraising initiatives
  • We started developing our social media presence 
  • Currently, we are developing our groundbreaking event for the first quarter of 2022.


These community meetings have shifted our perspective on what community development looks like.  They help us understand that true power lies in the ability to connect, motivate, listen to and mobilize our community. As a result, we know now more than ever, that the project we set out to accomplish is achievable. 


Lastly, during the month of November, we collected hundreds of canned goods and non-perishable items thanks to the help of generous community members and the participants in The Opportunity League youth programs. Adults and students had the opportunity to give back to their community by providing baskets and serving hot meals to over 300 individuals & families in Burlington City, Camden, and Pemberton New Jersey. New partnerships were strengthened with our local administration and community members and new relationships were forged with The Heart of the City, Ruff Ryders Motorcycle Club of Burlington County, Evesham Deputy Mayor, and several others.


As the year concludes and we look toward what 2022 has to offer. We are extremely grateful for the opportunities and resources this project has provided our community. More so we recognize the inspiration a project like this creates and the method in which this project has been managed should be replicated for future funding programs. With that being said, this is our informal invitation to our groundbreaking event. We hope that all of our co-creators, neighboring communities, and NJHI / RWJF staff are able to attend and see in person the power of hope.