Rutherford Receives Healthy Town Designation
By Jennifer Ersalesi
This year Rutherford received a Healthy Town Designation from the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute for its Mayor’s Wellness Campaign. According to their website, the institute "recognizes communities in which mayors have made healthy lifestyles a top priority and are actively engaging all the members of their community."
Mayor Joseph DeSalvo explained, “As Mayor of the Borough of Rutherford, I want to express my gratitude for being recognized for our exceptional ‘Mayor’s Wellness Campaign’. This wouldn’t be possible without the many volunteers who dedicate their time and efforts in all of our diverse programs. I am proud of our residents for supporting the various activities and for promoting healthy and active lifestyles in our community. I am dedicated to providing and implementing the many programs that our campaign offers throughout the year, offering a variety of opportunities designed for all ages."
When Joseph DeSalvo became Mayor in 2012, he was asked to make a resolution to find ways to encourage healthy living and wellness in Rutherford. With incredible support from the Recreation Department and its director, Barbara Bennett, the Mayor began implementing a variety of wellness activities.
The Mayor’s Wellness Campaign has included monthly bicycle rides with the Mayor (coordinated by Eileen Eastham and the Green Team), open swimming times at the Rutherford High School pool, free yoga in Lincoln Park throughout the summer, and Walk to School with the Mayor. Mayor DeSalvo told TIR, “The Walk to School with the Mayor is one of my favorites. It is really a lot of fun and always well attended.” Another successful component of the Wellness Campaign is the Exceptional Individuals program, which is for members of the community with disabilities. Sessions that focus on wellness, exercise, and a healthy dinner at a local restaurant are part of this program.
In the past, the Wellness Campaign has included the Mayor’s Mile, which was a walk that residents were invited to participate in around Memorial Park. Mayor DeSalvo and the Recreation Department also held a Speaker Series at the Tamblyn Civic Center. During this series, doctors, nutritionists, etc. spoke with residents about a variety of topics regarding health, exercise, and nutrition. “[Former Councilman] Mark O’Connor and I also had started a Senior Shoveling program. We organized groups of community members who shoveled snow at the homes of senior citizens in Rutherford. This was a very successful program for quite a while.”
There were approximately 2,500 residents involved in Mayor's Wellness Activities in 2018 and each year it seems the number of participants increases due to creative and inclusive programming for all ages.