AARP selects township of Belleville for a 2022 Community Challenge grant

BELLEVILLE, NJ — Belleville has been selected to receive a 2022 AARP Community Challenge grant, making the township one of just eight grantees chosen statewide.

The grant will be used to promote walkability, restore neighborhood connectivity and increase community relationships as the town emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic. The project will use an underutilized property to create a new walking trail and adjacent gardens. These will include memorial gardens dedicated to residents lost to COVID-19, along with a community garden, which will grow fresh fruits and vegetables that residents will be invited to pick and take home. The trail will connect a dead-end street to a wide range of public facilities, including parkland, the Belleville Recreation Department Building, Belleville High School and various commercial properties and residential neighborhoods.

“Belleville is extremely grateful to receive this grant from AARP, as it will help us on our continued mission to create a healthier and happier community and a greener and cleaner town,” Mayor Michael Melham said. “The grant will help us transform a small tract on Division Avenue into a memory garden and a healthy food garden with a corresponding walking trail. We envision this as a space with fresh fruit and vegetables ripe for picking, and a space seniors in particular can utilize to stroll, stop and chat or, quite literally, stop and smell the flowers.”

This project is part of the largest group of grantees to date with $3.4 million awarded among 260 organizations nationwide. Grantees will implement quick-action projects that help communities become more livable in the long-term by improving public places; transportation; housing; diversity, equity and inclusion; digital access; and civic engagement, with an emphasis on the needs of adults age 50 and over.

“We are incredibly excited to support the township of Belleville as they work to make immediate improvements, encourage promising ideas and jumpstart long-term change,” AARP New Jersey Director Stephanie Hunsinger said. “Our goal at AARP New Jersey is to support the efforts of our communities to be great places for people of all backgrounds, ages and abilities.”