LIVINGSTON, NJ — After brainstorming ways to assist their fellow residents emotionally during the ongoing pandemic, Livingston resident Laura Goren and Neeli Margolis, administrator of the LTown Lowdown community Facebook page, established the LivWell 07039 wellness initiative to help provide tools for Livingston students and staff members to label their feelings and express their emotions in a positive way.

“We wanted to create an emotional tool kit to help people during this time,” said Margolis, who also enlisted residents Marianne Cullen, Nicole Dockx and Amy Hochberg to assist her and Goren with this endeavor.

Shortly after taking to their Facebook group to locate various local professionals willing to run online classes in their areas of expertise, the organizers had 20 people signed up to teach and continue to recruit instructors as the program expands.

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Classes are currently being run by volunteer mental health professionals, social workers, arts specialists, meditation practitioners and fitness professionals, who will each provide at least one hour of instruction per week.

In addition to adding new subjects to the roster, the founders of LivWell hope that classes like yoga and other physical fitness programs can be held in person in the future—especially because part of LivWell’s mission is to connect peers.

“The physical and mental well-being of everyone is important, especially now, when we're constantly facing new challenges,” said Hochberg, who serves as the operations manager for the organization. “LivWell was born out of the desire to create a coordinated effort to harness all that our community has to offer.”

Goren, who serves as the LivWell Meditation Director, explained her role of overseeing free meditation courses for Livingston students and educators.

“Meditation, which takes many forms, is a proven tool to decrease anxiety and stress, and improve calm, focus, empathy, resilience and self-compassion,” said Goren, adding that despite the pandemic’s negative effect on individuals of all ages, it has also given Livingston residents “a chance to come together as a community for support and growth.”

One local business owner who has signed on to assist with LivWell’s mission is Julie Schachter of Board and Brush, who serves as the department head for LivWell arts courses.

She is currently recruiting volunteers to teach courses in “fine arts, crafts, performance arts, visual arts, writing and any other artistic medium (such as creative writing, journalism, knitting, stop motion animation, photography, cooking/baking, cross stitch, painting, singing, acting, music, design and so on).”

“Art is a therapeutic break from the pressures of COVID, school and social media,” said Schachter. “I’m really excited to help create something that positively impacts our community.”

Dockx, who is in charge of movement classes, said she plans to “collaborate with trainers, gym teachers, dancers and anyone who can offer services to get people on their feet,”

“I am passionate about helping people ‘LivWell’ through movement,” she said.

Cullen, a nurse in the Livingston Public Schools district, will head up the health portion of LivWell. She relayed that she is “eagerly recruiting families to take advantage of the extensive support system that LivWell has put in place” and that she plans to recruit college and high school students as “mentors, leaders and role models for [Livingston’s] younger population.”

As the mother of four teens, Cullen said she feels it’s important to show them the importance of giving back to the community.

Although classes are free, participants and other community members are encouraged to make a donation to Livingston Neighbors Helping Neighbors (LNHN) to help LNHN clients with mental health and tutoring expenses.

A catalog of free classes for kindergarten students to high school seniors, as well as faculty and staff members, will be posted in the coming weeks.

Those interested in volunteering can contact with their:

  • Name
  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • Professional qualifications and areas of expertise
  • Age groups you prefer to work with
  • Available volunteer hours
  • A brief description of the type of group they are interested in leading.

Community members are also encouraged to suggest ideas for new classes they might want to see provided through LivWell.

CLICK HERE for more information.