SUMMIT, NJ - Drawing a record crowd, Family Promise of Union County -- in partnership with Overlook Family Medicine and a host of volunteers -- hosted its third annual Health Fair at First Baptist Church of Cranford / Elizabeth, welcoming more than 200 attendees to an event that featured free wellness screenings, nutritional advice, and healthy foods.

A grant from Overlook Foundation enabled Family Promise of Union County (FPUC) and Overlook Family Medicine to develop a wellness program for guests of FP-UC’s emergency shelter. Dr. Christina Johnson of Atlantic Medical Group worked with FP-UC to address whole-person wellness – body, mind, and spirit -with health education, meditation, exercise, and counseling services.

“Families working to regain their independence have a lot of healing to do. We wanted to support that process,” said Dr. Johnson.

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Family Promise of Union County identified the need for health education for the community at large.

“People in crisis don’t necessarily have the time or energy to think about their health and well-being. For that matter, many of us overlook that aspect of our lives,” said FP-UC Executive Director Geleen Donovan. “That inspired us to host this annual fair and offer the community more resources to learn about healthy choices and lifestyles.”

Involvement has since spread to all corners of the community. This year, volunteers from Family Promise, Overlook Community Health, The College of St. Elizabeth, the Chester Lions Club, and many others in the community came together at First Baptist Church of Cranford  /Elizabeth, site of FP-UC’s Day Center, to offer wellness screenings, nutritional advice, healthy foods, and more. Even kids got in on the action with children’s activities that entertained while informing about healthy habits.

Overlook Family Medicine doctors and staff conducted blood pressure, diabetes, and weight screenings, then helped participants interpret their results. There were also free vision and hearing screenings, eye exams, nutritional consultations, and a “food court” of healthy selections. The first 100 participants to complete medical screenings received “Better Food Bags”, funded by the Junior League of Summit.

Each bag contained a healthy recipe, the non-perishable ingredients to make the recipe, and a gift card to purchase the rest. According to Kelly Donovan, a dietetics student at the College of St. Elizabeth who helped develop the bags, “We carefully selected three healthy recipes -- chicken, seafood and vegetarian, being mindful of providing a delicious, and easy-to-prepare, low-sodium and diabetes-friendly meal.” The goal of this project is to teach families the importance of healthy eating as well as provide them with an easy way to obtain the ingredients they need to prepare a family meal.

In addition, this year’s fair launched FP-UC’s “Healthy Steps to End Homelessness” fitness challenge / fundraiser. The month-long campaign, which runs from through May 26, promotes awareness of the crisis of family homelessness and raise funds to support Union County families in need. Participants are challenged to secure sponsors and take at least 9,000 steps per day. Nine thousand represents the number of individuals counted as homeless on any given night in New Jersey, as measured by the state’s annual point-in-time count conducted in 2016.

“Family Promise gives struggling families the skills and tools to live and succeed independently,” said Donovan. “Part of that includes health and well-being. Providing the knowledge and resources to live a healthy life is critical to long-term success.”

Family Promise was founded in Summit thirty years ago on the belief that Americans are compassionate people who want to make a difference. Today, Family Promise comprises 200+ Affiliates in 43 states, with more in development. Family Promise engages 200,000 volunteers, providing assistance to more than 90,000 family members annually. Since their founding, they have served more than 825,000 people; their holistic, community-based response delivering a comprehensive set of solutions through prevention, shelter, and stabilization programs nationwide.