Library Launches Program Promoting Activities For Mayor’s Wellness Campaign
KEEPING WELL: Mayor Mark Freda will join book discussions focused on mental wellness as part of upcoming Mayor’s Wellness Campaign events at the Princeton Public Library.
By Anne Levin
A series of events in support of the Mayor’s Wellness Campaign, focused on the mental wellness of families, children, and individuals of all ages, is about to get underway in and around the Princeton Public Library.
From book discussions and readings to a hula hoop party and bracelet-making, the schedule encompasses many approaches to maintaining mental health. The project has grown from an original idea for three book discussions to become the library’s major focus for the fall and beyond.
“It was a simple concept that ballooned,” said Janie Hermann, the library’s adult programming manager. “We are committed to it until May 2023 and it could go on after that, but we don’t know yet.”
The Mayor’s Wellness Campaign is a voluntary program of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute in partnership with the New Jersey State League of Municipalities. Back in 2018, the campaign rated Princeton a “Healthy Town,” the highest of three rankings. But over the past three years, the municipality has slipped down to “Healthy Town to Watch,” and the idea is to boost it back up to the top.
“Mayors can choose to join, and not all towns do,” said Hermann. “It is my understanding that the mayor is trying to get us to the next level.”
Mayor Mark Freda will be on hand for the book discussions, the first of which is September 21 when the topic is Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb.
“This series builds on the Mayor’s Wellness Campaign initiative our Health Department staff started last year to combat social isolation in Princeton,” Freda said in a press release. “With help from the Arts Council of Princeton and the Princeton Senior Resource Center, we facilitated community connections through art and gardening. I’m pleased that, with help from the library and other local partners this fall, we will continue to engage residents through discussions of books that focus on mental health and shared human experiences. I encourage everyone to read along with us and join in the discussions.”
Every session will be led by a library staff member and a local community leader proficient in the field. Hermann leads on September 21 at 11 a.m. (a virtual discussion will take place at 7 p.m. via Google Meet), along with Dave Errickson, executive director of Corner House Behavioral Health. The focus of the second book discussion, on November 17 at 7 p.m., is Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World, by Dr. Vivek Murphy. Whitney Ross, executive director of Trinity Counseling, will lead along with a library staff member.
Last spring, Hermann became aware of Freda’s efforts to end social isolation due to the pandemic through partnerships with the Arts Council and Princeton Senior Resource Center. When she ran into him at an Earth Day event in Herrontown Woods, they began to chat about collaborating on some book discussions.
Hermann brought the idea back to library staff, and it grew. A committee was put together to help select the books. “We wanted to be sure to have a youth component, and in between the months when there are book discussions, which are every other month, we wanted to have an activity,” she said.
The first of those related activities is a “Mindful Moments Storytime” on Saturday, September 10 at Community Park North/Pettoranello Gardens. Intended for children ages 3-8 and their families, it will include books, songs, rhymes, and activities focused on various aspects of mindfulness and nature.
The Virtual Storyroom on the library’s YouTube channel will feature a special edition Storytime Shorts focusing on mental wellness and emotional literacy for young children and their families beginning September 15 with Hurry Up! A Book About Slowing Down by Kate Dopirak. Additional releases include When Sadness is at Your Door by Eva Eland on October 13, and Allie All Along on November 10.
Two events on Saturday, October 1 mark World Hoop Day – a class for children age 8 and up in the Community Room, and an all-ages hula hoop party on Hinds Plaza. The events are designed to encourage fun and physical activity as a way to increase a sense of well-being.
Teens and adults can make a diffuser lava bead bracelet in the Community Room on Saturday, October 22 at 1:30 p.m. On Sunday, December 4 at 10:30 a.m., Hermann and Linda Willmer will lead a workshop on making greeting cards. “Research has shown that writing and receiving letters or cards boosts feelings of well-being and lessens social isolation,” reads the listing for the event on princetonlibrary.org/wellness.
“What started out small has become a major initiative for the library that involves all departments,” said Hermann. “We are looking at how all of these things together can assist with everybody’s sense of well-being.”