FRANKLIN — Forward Franklin Alliance is “building community to inspire health" in Franklin Borough. Supported by the national BUILD Health Challenge Initiative, Forward Franklin is one of 19 communities across the nation taking part in this grant program. Forward, Franklin is comprised of the North Jersey Health Collaborative, Atlantic Health System’s Newton Medical Center, the Sussex County Division of Health, Franklin Borough, Franklin Borough School, Sussex YMCA , other community partners and most importantly residents. "No one knows the community, its history, strengths, and challenges, better than the people who live here in Franklin,” said Laura Hawkins, of Atlantic Health System and Program Manager for Forward Franklin. "We knew that including Franklin residents in the Alliance would be critical to the success of this initiative", added Catherine Connelly, Executive Director of the North Jersey Health Collaborative. "Residents and community stakeholders working together to create greater opportunities for health is the foundation of our work," Connelly shared. The Grant was awarded in August 2017 with an end date of August 2019, although efforts for sustainability beyond the grant terms are underway. The FFA's overall goal is to “improve health and well-being for all Franklin Borough residents, by strengthening sense of community and promoting community engagement, empowerment, and investment in the future of Franklin.” Local Franklin Borough resident Tamara Contreras is the FFA’s Community Organizer. Contreras said, “I like to think of the FFA as a grassroots effort that empowers residents to have an active voice in local decision making," Franklin resident Tamara Contreras, FFA's Community Organizer, said. "As a fellow resident, I am fully vested in the work of the Alliance and want to encourage others to get involved.” The FFA brings community members together to “share information and resources, plan community activities and events, develop and revitalize public spaces and invest time and resources in Franklin.”Projects funded through the FFA Community Revitalization Fund so far have included a row boat to support safety operations at the Franklin Pond, new furniture at the Library on Main Street to promote a welcoming and inviting space to meet outside of work and school, materials to help the Franklin Historical Society to establish a new community-building Fall tradition of creating scarecrows, to be displayed in resident’s yards. The “Building Scarecrows” initiative will to encourage family, friends and local business to engage in a creative, outdoor adventure with their neighbors. Other applications have been submitted by local stakeholders and residents and have been brought to the FFA for funding consideration. All applications are discussed at the Adult, Youth, and Organizational Affinity Groups before a final decision by the Steering Committee. Grant applications are still being accepted and considered. Residents should attend one of the meetings to share ideas and learn more about the application process. FFA has hosted community events and activities, including a Health and Wellness Expo, Family Game night, Fall Fest, and Wellness Workshops all at various Borough of Franklin venues including the Franklin Pond, Elementary School, Littell Center, and Library. Currently, the Youth Affinity Group is running a Poster Contest called “Franklin Pride: Past, Present and Future.” The contest is open to all Borough residents aged 5-17. Pick up poster paper at no cost from the Borough Library or Franklin Borough Elementary School. Submission deadline is Jan. 31, 2019. Gift cards will be awarded to winners in various age groups and the art will be displayed throughout the borough. FFA projects and initiatives are guided by local data about community needs and driven by Franklin residents who are passionate about making a difference in their community. Residents are encouraged to get involved – new members are always welcome. The FFA gave a presentation to the Borough of Franklin Town Council at the most recent meeting in hopes to get even more community involvement. “Bring your idea to an FFA meeting! Residents and Community Leaders are invited to attend," Contreras said. "We are also looking at making a virtual map of Franklin Borough. If anyone has any historical pictures or stories, please come to a meeting and share!”The Forward Franklin Alliance (FFA) consists of 3 separate Affinity Groups: The FFA Organizational Stakeholder Group, The Adult Resident Affinity Group, and the Youth Resident Affinity Group (YAG). The next meeting date for the Organizational Group is Thursday, December 20th, 2018 from 12:00pm-2:00pm at the Littell Community Center; Adult Affinity Group next meeting date is Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019, from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Senior Center. Youth Affinity Group (YAG) next meeting date is Friday, Jan. 11, 2019, from 2:30-3:30 p.m. at Franklin Borough Elementary School. For more information about meetings, grant applications, events, and contest details, email ForwardFranklinAlliance@gmail.com or go to Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ForwardFranklinNJ/.