Toms River Mayor Partners with Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation to Tackle Pressing Health Problems

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Part of keeping people healthy is getting them healthy in the first place. In Toms River, that

means working together with community leaders on a plan for public health improvement.

Toms River Mayor Thomas F. Kelaher, working in conjunction with the Jay and Linda Grunin

Foundation, the applicant organization, has applied for a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson

Foundation to build a culture of health in New Jersey as part of the RWJF New Jersey Health

Initiatives Program, established nearly 30 years ago.

Mayor Kelaher and the Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation, which is managing the project, have

put together The Toms River Family Support and Health Coalition in the hope of securing the

grant money to address the area’s priority health issues. If selected as grant recipients, the

Coalition will begin its task of tackling obesity, hunger, substance abuse, senior isolation and

other top heath concerns facing our town and county. The Coalition is made up of partners

ranging from prevention to intervention, encompassing leaders from the public health,

business, education, philanthropy, nonprofit, community development, healthcare and

government sectors of our community.

As part of the RWJF New Jersey Health Initiatives Program, if successful, six individuals from the

Coalition will participate in the Boundary Spanning Leadership Institute. This will provide

intense training to develop skills and knowledge to work with the Coalition and community to

address challenges, align resources, focus on health priorities and implement policies. The

Coalition chose Lynette Whiteman, Executive Director of Caregiver Volunteers of Central

Jersey; Peter Rosario, CEO of Ocean County YMCA; Daniel Regenye, Public Health

Coordinator/Health Officer of the Ocean County Department of Health; Debi Heptig, Executive

Director of Hope Sheds Light; and Tara Cunningham, Director of Strategic Planning of the Jay

and Linda Grunin Foundation to participate.  In addition, Drs. Gemma MacCarrick and Timothy

Brennan were nominated as Coalition Coaches and will also participate in the leadership


Coalition members acknowledge the power in working together to tackle issues that will help

create a healthy and economically vibrant community.

Mayor Thomas F. Kelaher stated, “I am happy to support this project as I can see how this will

enhance the quality of life for all of our residents.  One of the things that we’ve been able to do

here is bring together a coalition that doesn’t look at just one problem, but looks at the whole

plethora of problems – be it obesity, substance abuse or hunger.”

“We are very fortunate to be able to collaborate with those who impact each sector of our

community.  We have created this coalition with confidence that we will be able to move

forward and start to tackle the major health care priorities in Toms River and Ocean County,”

said Jeremy Grunin, Executive Director of the Jay & Linda Grunin Foundation.

Lynette Whiteman, Executive Director of Caregiver Volunteers of Central Jersey says as a

caregiver for her own mother, she experiences firsthand the tremendous need to assist the

elderly population.  “Working together with a strong coalition will strengthen our ability to

support our community and make it one in which people from all generations can lead healthy

and joyous lives.”