Beyond Blueberries: Creative Hammonton Seizes Opportunity

Posted on by Kacy O’Brien, Program Manager, Creative New Jersey

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Hammonton, best known to outsiders as prime blueberry country in the Pinelands of New Jersey, is a town with surprising diversity beyond the species found in this unique ecosystem.

With a population of 15,000 — of which 20 percent are families, business owners and workers who are Latino and Hispanic — Hammonton boasts industries that range from food truck manufacturing and festivals to commercial development to small retail businesses and restaurants.

Stockton UniversiCreative Hammonton flyer central question graphicty’s Kramer Hall sits alongside the Hammonton train station, just a few blocks walking distance from arts and cultural institutions, high schools, and an array of houses of worship.

Hammonton is also home to unique events like the SADfest — a three-day music festival and fundraiser that raises awareness about suicide, addiction and depression and provides a safe space for people affected by those issues to come together and support one another.

With all this creative activity going on, Creative New Jersey was excited to join forces with this community over a series of months leading up to the Creative Hammonton Call to Collaboration, which took place just two days after an epic snow storm. One of the two days of the Call to Collaboration was postponed, but on Jan. 26 we opened the doors of St. Joseph High School, our host venue, and welcomed over 100 Hammonton area residents, business owners, workers and other community members to tackle the central question:

“How can we creatively strengthen and expand the connections of our increasingly diverse community, improve collaborations, and capitalize on our economic, cultural and natural resources to cultivate a thriving Hammonton?”

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That first day of Creative Hammonton brought together the creative thinkers and thought-leaders from throughout Hammonton’s region – leaders in education, business & industry, transportation, finance, culture, faith-based, social service, government, civics and other disciplines – who had a willingness to engage with issues beyond the daily challenges of their particular fields of interest.

The gathering aimed to launch new creative ideas and foster efforts already underway in order to help create a thriving Hammonton.

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Themes of inclusion, diversity and continued collaboration and outreach led the day, with additional vibrant discussions around integrating migrant workers, tourists, new residents and students in the town; supporting local businesses; and ecologically-sound practices.  Click here to peruse the complete notes.

An active and vocal group of students from Hammonton High School, St. Joseph High School and Stockton University engaged in a variety of civic discussions alongside adult participants.

Hammonton’s local restaurant owners came out in the double digits to support their community and provided a spread of local fare that spanned as many cultures and cuisines as the participants themselves.

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Day two, scheduled for April 12, 2016, will continue the momentum started by Creative Hammontonians by taking a creative and collaborative approach to building on Hammonton’s successes and current challenges. Hammontonians have already set the bar high by challenging each other to see how much can be accomplished before April 12.  We’ll be back to share the creative ideas taking root in Hammonton in late April.  In the meantime, enjoy spring!

If you would like more information or would like to participate in Creative Hammonton please email Kacy O’Brien at kobrien@creativenj.org.

Creative Hammonton photos by: Joseph Bruno


Kacy O'Brien

Kacy O’Brien

Kacy O’Brien is Creative New Jersey’s Program Manager and is a Lead New Jersey’s 2015 Fellow.

Creative New Jersey is dedicated to fostering creativity, innovation, and sustainability by empowering cross-sector partnerships in commerce, education, philanthropy, government, and culture in order to ensure dynamic communities and a thriving economy.

 Creative New Jersey’s leaders and partners are regular contributors to the Dodge blog.

 

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