LIVINGSTON, NJ — The Livingston Young Families Club (LYFC), founded in 2016, continues to promote community engagement among children and families nearly three years later, according to the non-profit’s leaders, Jun and Fen Ye.

The couple and their two sons, Roger and Luke, ages 10 and 8, recently presented the LYFC’s mission to the Livingston mayor and council in order to reach more local families.

“This is a young organization and we are doing volunteer work for children and families to engage them into community activities,” said Jun Ye, who moved to Livingston with his family about five years ago.

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Once his sons began school, Ye said the family was very busy with schoolwork and work around the house, but often felt like something was missing. He said that although there were many community activities to become involved in, the family felt that these activities “come and go,” and that they were looking for something to participate in year-round.

The couple then came up with an idea that would get local families out of the house while also contributing to the community.

According to Ye, the club currently has about 80 participating families, which includes about 160 school-age kids.

“Those school-age kids, most of them [are from] elementary schools and they’re friends,” he said. “Families have had a lot of fun activities in the past three years.”

Since 2016, the LYFC has hosted approximately 20 events—some internal and some in collaboration with other organizations.

“We’re trying to bring the kids to a lot volunteer events,” said Fen Ye, who spoke about some specific activities, such as visiting the Salvation Army over the holidays to encourage the kids to think less about what gifts they might receive and more about those in need. “Every year, we have like 20-30 families do the relay of three of four hours [at Salvation Army] and the kids say their greetings and bring their smiles. Local residents do their donations and get their appreciation as well.”

She added that the group beats the Salvation Army’s average record each year, and that the kids go home thinking about what they can do to help others.

Other activities have included visiting Peanut Shell, participating in MLK Day, hosting events at the West Essex YMCA and more.

A fan favorite was an interactive children’s event called “Fitness Night with Kung Fu Panda” at the Livingston Library that focused on educating local youth on physical fitness in an engaging way. The young participants learned fitness skills while and also presented a skit that they wrote, directed, designed the costumes for and acted in.

Luke, a second grader at Mt. Pleasant Elementary (MPE), spoke about a visit he and other LYSC members made to Care One at Livingston Assisted Living over the holidays so that residents “wouldn’t exactly feel lonely” as well as educational trips to the Livingston Police Department, town hall and the water utility department.

“We’re kind of learning stuff and having fun,” he said.

Mayor Ed Meinhardt, who said the LYFC represents the diversity and inclusion that Livingston embraces, said he was happy to host more than 140 residents at town hall for a tour of the municipal and police departments.

He also thanked the historical society for helping out with the LYFC’s community garden project near the Oval, which Roger spoke more about.

“The community garden is interesting to see because you can see how everything grows and you might even be able to harvest it,” he said. “We’re planting seeds in cartons filled with soil and watering them. After a few weeks, they will grow bigger and we will get to plant them into the community garden. They will be very beautiful like that.”

The family said that the LYFC hopes the community garden will be a bigger project in the future.

The LYFC also supports town events, like the upcoming diversity festival at the YMCA and Saturday’s Youth Appreciation Week Family Festival Day. Last year, visitors to the LYFC ‘s booth at the Family Festival Day designed their own kite and learned to fly them.

This year, the LYFC looks forward to presenting even more surprises at the event, which will be held at the Oval from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For more information about LYFC, email LYFC.member@gmail.com.

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