Thursday, June 7

Women Thriving – On Their Own

For Florence Falk the distance between acting, the avocation of her earlier life, and her later work in psychotherapy is not that great. When she was an actor, she says, “I was always watching people, noticing people, absorbing, and probably just by virtue of a certain sensibility, picking up things.” Psychology, where she has worked for 20 years, is also about human behavior, but from a different perspective. In both fields professionals immerse themselves in characters, real or fictional, and their behavior, including all the justifications behind it.

When Falk was six or seven, she was “already doing some version of performing and creating a character” — playing a little old lady, a spinster, in a summer camp production. Continuing to act through high school and after, she graduating from Queens College with a bachelor’s degree in English literature.

But it took a big decision to switch from her “almost career” of acting. Offered an opportunity to audition in Hollywood for “the dark-haired version of Mia Farrow’s counterpart” in the pilot for the soap opera “Peyton Place,” she turned it down for fear she would get swallowed up in that unknown world. The role would have required her to stay for several years, and she was afraid to commit.

Even after Falk had stopped performing and had married a second time, she wanted to maintain a close relationship with theater and enrolled in a graduate program in theater at Stanford University.

In the meantime, her husband got a job teaching at Princeton University, so she transferred to Rutgers University, where she wrote her dissertation on an avant garde playwright Richard Forman, who was part of the New York experimental theater scene that Falk followed closely.

Falk had also loved teaching in the English department at Rutgers, but realized that getting a tenured job in English was exceedingly difficult. So in her early 30s, when her two sons were entering their teens and she and her husband had separated and divorced, she moved back to the city, “the world she had been brought up in.” She says, “it was very good for me to get back to New York. I really felt myself again.” Falk had grown up in Forest Hills, Queens, where her father owned a jewelry business that her mother ran after his early death.

Falk knew, at this point, that she would need to support herself and decided to go to the Hunter College School of Social Work for a degree in clinical social work. “It was a great choice,” she says. “I don’t think I’ve ever learned more in my life than doing this work.” Not only does she learn about her patients and human behavior, but she also gains greater insight into herself through each person she treats. “Working with people in this in-depth way, moment-to-moment over time,” she says, “is an amazing and transforming experience.”

It was in the course of this interactive learning that Falk confronted head on an issue she had left unexamined in her own life — what it meant to be a woman alone. The immediacy and power of the topic quickly made her put aside the book she was writing on the nature of longing. What resulted was “On My Own: The Art of Being a Woman Alone,” which Falk will discuss on Thursday, June 7, at 3 p.m. at the Princeton Center for Yoga and Health in Skillman. Cost: $20. She will also appear at the Hamilton Center for Health and Wellness in Trenton the same day at 6:30 p.m. Cost: $15. To register, call 800-483-7436 or go to www.friendshealthconnection.org.

The idea for Falk’s book came to her one day when one of her patients, “a successful screen writer, an exceedingly attractive, interestingly eccentric woman who had always had a man,” walked into her office. Her current relationship was dissolving, and for the first time she had no man waiting in the wings. Desperate, she looked at Falk and said, “How can I be without a man? I don’t know how to be a woman alone.”

“Her words were so palpable and the energy around them so strong,” remembers Falk. “When she said the words, it was as if they were hanging in the room.” Then her patient suggested that Falk write a book on the subject. “When she said it, I paid attention to what my feelings were,” says Falk. “She could not have known anything about my life, that I was a woman alone.”

Falk was not immediately sure what to do with her patient’s suggestion. Perhaps starting out on a new project would just be a way of digressing and diverting attention from the subject she was already working on. Yet the idea of a book on women alone kept floating up in her mind and wouldn’t go away. When a writer friend said, “Do it,” she decided to go ahead.

Falk found herself listening in a new way and realized that many of her patients were dealing with the issue. Yet as she delved more into the subject, she found a lot of avoidance around the subject of being alone, even among happily married women. She shares a story of a man who told her his wife picked up her book, started it, and then wouldn’t go near it. “She’s so afraid of the subject,” says Falk. “She lives in a state of fear that he will leave her, even though he has no intention of doing so.”

In her book, Falk suggests a process by which all women, both those living alone and those in relationships, can transform their fears into creative possibility:

Acknowledge the messages. Although our culture is slowly shifting, many women still grow up with the romantic myth of being completed by another person. Complicating this is the extended adolescence that our 20-somethings are part of. “It takes us a long time to get to know about ourselves,” says Falk. If during this period, we get into an amorous relationship where the feelings of infatuation erode and the relationship falters, deep feelings of loss and insecurity often surface.

Other culture messages teach women to think about their bodies in terms of an “air-brushed sense of perfection about how we are supposed to look,” and even beyond that, to think of themselves as all things to all people: “Sirens and vamps, and also wonderful wives and mothers, and have a professional life — it’s a lot we take on,” says Falk.

Avoid the distractions. Today women have available a variety of electronic venues that keep them from getting to know themselves. The cell phone and the Internet can be potent tools for an electronic addiction that gets in the way of self-knowledge.

Listen to your own voice. Falk explains that this means “allowing oneself to actually step into the state of aloneness and letting the feelings that are there come up.” Often the feelings can be negative and self-destructive.

One common feeling is guilt, especially about taking time for oneself. “It’s one thing to get a haircut and manicure — we’re socialized to do that,” says Falk. “It’s different to take time for yourself and to use solitude on your own behalf. It can feel threatening or frightening.” Women feel they should be with their husbands or children, even if they take five minutes a day for themselves. Falk cautions women to expect and live with this discomfort.

For a woman in her mid-30s or 40s separating and getting a divorce, an even more difficult set of feelings arises. “There’s a lot of self-doubt, questioning what did I do wrong,” Falk observes.

Appreciate and understand aloneness. “Take time away from being with others to go inward,” advises Falk, “and begin to know yourself on deeper levels and to listen to your own voice.”

“When we are very young, most of us have some version, metaphorically speaking, of the secret garden in our lives,” says Falk. “We need to get back to that secret garden and cultivate those young, green, growing things that are inside of us.” Because of how we are reared, as well as circumstances beyond our control, however, we let go of this as we get older and need to reclaim that part of ourselves. “It doesn’t mean leaving your partner,” she says, “but it might mean hearing yourself.”

Often women alone feel isolated, but isolation is different from being able to be alone with oneself. “My whole point is to have connection, but to your own self, in the most genuine sense,” says Falk. “This is what allows us to be with other people in a more intimate and embracing way, be it a child, a partner, or the community at large.”

In some sense writing this book brought to consciousness the process that Falk had gone through in her own life. In the early years following her divorce, she says, “I lost my whole way of life, but I gave it up for something else.” Those first few years were very difficult. She had little time for herself and was disconnected from what had been her whole network. After a divorce, she says, men are still invited, but women become problematic.

Since then, Falk’s life has settled down. She lives on the Upper West Side, across Central Park from her son and nine-month-old granddaughter. She has a second home in Wolcott, Vermont, an old schoolhouse in a rural area where she takes advantage of music, parks, and theater, and “views that are to die for.”

In Vermont she feels part of a strong community where she can also relax and be herself. “I wear one old pair of jeans and forget everything else and go to the farmer’s market,” she says. “It’s a wonderful alternative. I’ve never been a person who can handle the suburbs too well.”

The confrontation with aloneness that Falk herself has worked through successfully leads finally, she says, “to some kind of inner connecting and resolution.” Taking time for oneself, thinking, resting, rejuvenating, getting in touch with oneself, says Falk, “is something that allows us to grow — a maturing process that takes place, like a wine that is aging well.”

— Michele Alperin

Saturday, June 9

How Life Begins At 50

When Henry David Thoreau wrote in “Walden” that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” he wasn’t necessarily thinking of disillusioned middle class people in early 21st century New Jersey. Nonetheless a whole slew of lifelong members of the workforce, many of them approaching their 50th birthday, are taking him at his work and trying to change Thoreau’s “desperation” to “inspiration.”

“To discover your passion, what you really want to do in life, even at the age of 50 or beyond, is extremely liberating,” says Tom Caines, a life coach and financial planner. “It’s almost as if the people I work with have been knocked unconscious and they suddenly come to. They suddenly realize that they can do what they want in their life. By the end of one of my seminars they end up saying ‘I can’ instead of ‘I can’t.’”

Caines gives a two-session seminar on “Life Planning After 50: It’s More than Money,” beginning on Saturday, June 9, at 9 a.m. at Mercer County Community College. This is an interactive workshop that offers an alternative perspective and road map for creatively planning the second half of your life. Cost: $50. Call 609-570-3856.

As one ages, time seems to go faster and faster. According to Caines, a certain anxiety can sometimes overtake people as they ponder the second half of their lives. But he says that the retirement years can be a time of great growth and potential. “The purpose of the course is not to have people settle for something in their lives or careers,” says Caines. “It is to open them up to the idea that there are so many things that they can do.”

Caines says that much of the so-called “midlife crisis” that both men and women are said to go through in their late 40s and early 50s is really a reaching out for the kind of life that they may have longed for since they were young. “In their early 20s most people start out with mortgages, and children, and education, and things that really force them to pay the bills first and put themselves on the back burner,” he says. “But as they approach their 50s, they start transitioning from being parents into grandparents, and maybe the house is all paid up, and they realize that maybe it is time to put themselves up on the front burner and attend to themselves for a change.”

Tough economic times only makes the anxieties all the more ominous, and unfortunately many people are forced into life changes that they are not always ready for. Caines says that it is important to plan ahead. “In these days of corporate downsizing and takeovers, gone are the days when someone would get a job at the age of 21 and retire from that same company at 65,” says Caines. “The average person these days will wind up having several careers. That is a good thing.”

At the age of 53 Caines has had seven full-blown and careers, ranging from door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman to television producer for the USA Network. “People have these stereotypes of what kinds of people have these jobs,” he says. “That goes from the slicked down hair of the vacuum cleaner salesman to the producer with loads of money. But stereotypes are deceiving and limiting and keep people from making positive changes in their lives.”

Caines has worked as a life coach for over six years, first while working as an information technologist at Public Service Electric & Gas. “I was chosen to be a leader of a group and they brought in a coach to work with me. She became a teacher to me and trained me essentially as a business coach. I loved it and started doing it while at PSE&G and then went into my own business.” He and his wife Claire, a psychotherapist, founded their company “Clear Vision Coaching,” in 2003. They both live in northern New Jersey where Caines was born and raised.

While the course is designed for people hovering near their 50th birthday, Caines says it can be taken at any age. “A lot of people tell me after taking my seminar that they wish they’d heard me 25 years ago,” says Caines. “But everybody has to follow their own journey. I am happy to be where I am now.” For those interested in making some life changes, Caines offers the following tips:

Stop procrastinating. According to Caines, people act as if they will live forever. “It’s not enough to start asking yourself at the age of 64 what you are going to do when you retire at 65,” he says. “You have to get ready to make that next transition. The problem is that people are busy, there are a million things they have to get done, and they really don’t take the time to think about themselves. Now is a good time.”

Ask yourself kid questions. Every child wants to have an exciting life. Kids never say that they want to be a mid-level manager their whole lives and work in a windowless office. Ask yourself what you would want to do — setting aside financial concerns — if you could do anything. What do I want to do? Where is the passion? What would I be doing if I could do anything I want?

Don’t minimize your skills. “People almost universally seem to be very good at minimizing their own skills,” says Caines. “Sure, you may have been a secretary your whole life, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a full range of transferable skills. Were you a good organizer? Did the office go to shambles when you were on vacation? Then you have the organizing skills that can be used to produce a play or open a store. Don’t let so-called limitations stop you from reaching your goals.”

Take action. Although everyone wants more out of life it is difficult to know how to get it. “First, it is necessary to define our personal and professional goals,” says Caines. “Without a goal, all you have is a dream or a vague wish that you hope will someday come true. If goals are this important, why do so many of us avoid them?”

Don’t be so worried about money. Money is the biggest soul-stopper in the world, says Caines. “Financial concerns are one of those stumbling blocks that people use all the time to keep them from reaching their dreams,” he says. “They think, ‘I could open an art gallery, but that is an expensive proposition.’”

But don’t let the dream die just because of money. Rather, he suggests, ask: Do you know anyone who may be interested in investing in your dream? Are their ways of getting things done that you haven’t yet thought of? You may have to scale things down a bit because of finances, but you can still make them happen.”

As the baby boomer generation enters retirement age, the “quiet desperation” of mid-life angst is becoming something of a cliche. But Caines believes there is a lot of wisdom in these words if one allows oneself to set aside the cynicism. The late magician Doug Henning said, “Follow your dreams, for as you dream so shall you become.” Caines says, “Go for it.”

— Jack Florek

Monday, June 11

Stop Burning Your Marketing Dollars

Ellen Silverman parlayed her experiences in teaching, marketing, and real estate sales into a job as marketing manager for a real estate company before going out on her own as a marketing consultant, first for the real estate market and later for small and medium-sized service businesses.

She has seen good — and bad — marketing from a number of angles and concludes that “people throw stuff out there and hope something sticks.” But this random approach doesn’t work, she says. What’s more, it can be disastrous for a new company on a budget. “Small businesses can’t afford to light a match to marketing dollars,” says Silverman.

She is teaching a two-session class on “Marketing Communications” at Mercer County Community College, beginning on Monday, June 11, at 6 p.m. Cost: $80. Call 609-570-3311.

The Bayonne native graduated magna cum laude from the Jersey City State College with a degree in English education. She had taught high school in Jersey City, then picked up real estate during her husband’s transfers as a plant manager for a national industrial laundry company, and got into marketing after serving as an editor for the sociology and political science publishing company Transaction, housed at Rutgers University.

When she saw an ad for a real estate company, a franchise of Gallery of Homes, looking for a marketing manager, she called the owner and told him, “I’m your perfect person. I’ve sold real estate, and I’m a marketing manager.” He hired her. Her next job was with Max Spann Realtors, which she left to go out on her own as a real estate marketing specialist.

Silverman moved her growing business out of her home to an office on Route 18 in East Brunswick. But real estate was ebbing, as Silverman knew from watching what was happening in the heartlands and farther west. “If you want to know what’s coming down the pike,” she says, “look at what’s happening in the West and Midwest.” She saw real estate markets that were falling apart, with relocations way down. Although the East Coast was still going full steam ahead, she knew “we’re going to get hit.”

And indeed half of her clients went out of business. “Real estate companies that would be there on Friday were gone on Monday,” she remembers. Her response to the crisis was twofold: she moved her business back home, and she diversified. Her Pluckemin-based company is called Ellen Silverman Associates (www.esamarketing.biz).

As she started working with other businesses, she realized that lots of people did not know what they were doing when it came to marketing. “Somebody would come in and say, ‘I need a brochure or I need an ad,’” says Silverman. Her response would be: “Why? What will you do when you get it? How will you deliver it? Who will you deliver it to?”

When the only responses she got were “everybody has to have a brochure,” it was clear to her that her clients didn’t understand the basics of marketing.

She was equally appalled when she looked at the letterhead, business cards, and marketing collateral of multimillion-dollar companies. “Everything was different,” she says. “They didn’t have an identity and didn’t differentiate themselves. The colors and type styles were different, and there was no consistency.” These companies, she observes, are concentrating on sales, not marketing.

To be fair, she figured she needed to do some teaching before asking these businesses to spend their money. In her workshops she teaches first about the marketing process and only then about the creative process.

She offers a number of tips about how to write strong copy.

Understand yourself and your competition. Before even thinking about copy, a business must answer the following questions: Who are you and what are you are about? What are you selling? How do you differentiate yourself from your competition? Who are you selling to and what message are you trying to put out? What do you want to happen when you write this copy?

Write headlines that pull people in. One format is a “how to,” for example, how to write copy that sells, how to manage the media, how to plan for a secure future. Another approach is to state a problem: Are you financially ready for retirement? Do you get the return you want on your investment when you market your business?

Use words that grab people’s attention. Certain “trigger-pushing words” get people to read an ad or a brochure. Examples are “you,” “free,” “guarantee,” “discover,” “new,” “easy,” gets results. “If you weave them into your copy,” says Silverman, “they become powerful.”

Don’t use words that suggest indecision or lack of confidence. Verboten words are probably, would have, should have, and maybe.

Offer a guarantee. You can, for example, tell clients that if they don’t leave a seminar with at least two ideas that they can use right away, their seminar fee will be returned. This instills confidence that you will do what you say you will do, she says. You’re so sure that is going to happen that you offer a guarantee.

Another example of a guarantee is a trick home sellers are using in a buyer’s market — offering a home warranty. “It instills confidence,” says Silverman. “If something goes wrong, the seller is paying for an insurance policy to cover the basic functions of the house.”

Speak the language of your prospect. “You have to speak directly to your prospect in a language your prospect understands,” says Silverman. “You can’t just go blah blah blah, because nobody reads it or listens to it.”

First consider your audience’s age. Teenagers or 20-somethings speak in one way and baby boomers in another. Today, says Silverman, they call it “generational marketing,” but she’s been doing it for years.

With regard to technology, the younger set is going to be more comfortable with terms like blogging and podcasts. “There’s a commercial on TV where a mother is talking to a kid about the phone bill and text messaging,” says Silverman. “I haven’t a clue what they’re saying.”

While this ad might appeal to teenagers, if their mothers are the decision makers on cell phone purchases, it might be missing its mark.

Or, take the abbreviation “O.J.”

“If you were born in the 40s or 50s,” says Silverman, “OJ was orange juice. In the 70s or 80s, it’s the guy who was running through the airport.”

Sometimes people make the mistake of writing copy alluding to an event that happened before the prospects were born. Silverman relates a conversation she had with a younger graphic designer in which she mentioned the day that Kennedy died, adding “everybody knows where they were.” The women’s response was “I wouldn’t know. I wasn’t born yet.”

Sometimes the copywriter must decide whether it is appropriate to use professional jargon or not. An attorney once gave her a call about some articles the firm wanted to put up on its website. The lawyer said to her, “If I gave you my seminar notes, could you turn them into an article?” Her response, which she meant quite seriously, was “it depends if you want it in English or in legalese — I only write in English.”

Stress the benefits you offer. Make sure your copy gives its viewer a reason to want to call you. And, cautions Silverman, this does not mean putting your entire life story in a brochure or on a website. “Nobody cares about your life story if it’s not about what you are selling,” she says. If people are looking for a printer, for example, they want one they can rely on, who will get the job done with no mistakes. That’s what the website should tell them.

Always put benefits over features. “People buy and react emotionally,” says Silverman, “and they react to something that impacts them personally.” She cites Volvo commercials as a great example of focusing on a benefit. “They don’t talk about tires, engines, or leather seats. They show a kid in a car and ask, “Who would you buy a Volvo for?” It’s that safety benefit that will hit a prospect emotionally.

A benefit perspective focuses on solving problems for the prospect. In her own marketing copy, for example, Silverman might write, “If your marketing feels like lighting a match to your money, and you’re not getting a return on your investment. If you put an ad in a newspaper or sent out a letter and got no response, we need to talk.”

— Michele Alperin

Tuesday, June 12

New Guidelines For Investigating Firms

The old, lock-arm wall of solidarity between senior management and corporate employers may be starting to crumble. As the Justice Department increasingly turns its prosecutorial microscope on business, everyone has begun looking for some place, or someone, to hide behind. With the advent of the McNulty Memo, issued by the Department of Justice’s attorney general, businesses are hoping for a fairer shake.

Whether they will actually get it is the subject for vast debate in board rooms, and at the New Jersey Institute of Continuing Legal Education, which presents a panel discussion, “The McNulty Memo: New Guidelines for Investigating and Prosecuting Corporations” on Tuesday, June 12, at 1:30 p.m. at the Grand Plaza in Monroe Township. Cost: $169. Visit www.NJICLE.com. Panelists include Raymond Brown, partner with the Woodbridge law firm of Greenbaum Rowe Smith & Davis; Heidi Solomon Allen, associate general counsel for Aventis in Bridgewater; and Jack Wenick, attorney with Sills, Cummis, Epstein & Gross in Newark.

Be it blue or white collar, Brown seemed a man destined for law enforcement. He grew up in Sheepshead Bay with a father who was a member of New York’s finest, patrolling a Coney Island beat. Brown attended the State University of Albany, graduating with a bachelor’s in criminal justice in l982. He then earned a law degree from Yale and moved on to Philadelphia, where he served as a U.S. Attorney. He now heads up Greenbaum Rowe Smith & Davis’ white collar crime section.

On December 12, 2006, Attorney General Paul McNulty issued to each of the nation’s 94 U.S. Attorney’s offices what has been termed the McNulty Memo. It was issued to upgrade and clarify the former Thompson Memo, a handbook on methods of prosecuting corporations and individuals for white collar crimes. Such memos are policy directives, declaring how everyone in the Department of Justice will do business. While not legislated law, they carry the same weight.

Attorney-client waiver. Historically the words that pass between a client and his lawyer have been considered sacred, and inadmissible in any court trial, no matter how damning they might be. However, as with any law, exceptions may be made. It is, in fact, the current glut of attorney-client privilege waivers in corporate indictments that has sparked many of prosecutorial questions in the Justice Department.

There have always been methods of gaining a waiver for attorney client privilege, Brown points out. However, when the corporate scandals of five years ago threatened America’s investment image abroad, the resulting prosecutorial fervor tended to make waivers more frequent. Originally the Holder Memo, published as an advisory, set some guidelines for such waivers.

This was followed by the Thompson Memo, which was a Justice Department directive that many corporations and civil liberty groups claimed overstepped Constitutional bounds. That memo provided a plethora of prosecutorial tools, and in particular greatly expanded the number of ways in which to forgo attorney client privilege in corporate fraud cases.

“Junior prosecutors were almost routinely seeking such waivers and they were pressuring corporations to serve up individual wrongdoers from within their own ranks,” says Brown.

Tattlers and scapegoats. As pressure from Sarbanes-Oxley enforcement and SEC investigations increased over the past two years, corporations were beginning to sacrifice senior managers or individual board members as scapegoats. The company, which had always paid its investigated employee’s legal fees for such indictments, were beginning to abandon them. Rather that back their own, corporations were furtively amassing conviction evidence to gain credit for cooperation.

The landmark case that rippled the business community came when accounting giant KPMG (www.kpmg.com) was accused of marketing illegal tax shelters. In exchange for a non-prosecutorial agreement, KPMG gave up a huge number of individuals to the U.S. Attorneys trying the case. The 700 employees who were charged, most of whom were found innocent, were all fired. “It’s gotten like the deputy sheriff walking into the saloon,” says Brown, “Everybody spies the lawyer and instantly points to some other guy as the one who started it all.”

McNulty solutions. In theory the McNulty Memo will stem the tide of attorney-client communication waivers, and bring it back to being used only in the rarest cases. Under this directive, a prosecutor must first establish a legitimate claim as to why the waiver must be granted. (Making evidence easier to collect is scarcely a valid reason.) From there, the request is passed to the area’s U.S. Attorney, then to the assistant attorney general of the criminal division, and finally to the U.S. deputy attorney general, who decides whether to grant it. The memo also formalizes and stiffens many of the rules of evidence that can be used in court.

“Attorney client privilege is not only a basic right, it is a vital, necessary structure of our legal machinery,” says Brown. “Once it is taken away, it’s open season for all kinds of suits on the defendant and on everyone surrounding him.” Class action suits almost invariably spring up against companies which have had such waivers granted in fraud cases. So the scapegoating techniques may do the corporation little good in the long run.

A rash of corporate criminal fraud investigations has brought up many questions. Is a corporation legally considered a separate enough entity that all its managers and board members can be investigated, but the entity itself can remain untouched? Because a corporation is obviously not a human individual, can we more readily waive its basic rights, such as attorney-client privilege? (In individual criminal cases such waivers are almost never granted.)

Brown warns that there is great power in the hands of government and that we must monitor to make sure it is used wisely. It remains to be seen whether the McNulty Memo can set the balance straight between Constitutional rights and effective prosecution. As Brown puts it, “I think they’ve got the right idea, but it will take some time to see how it all shakes out.”

— Bart Jackson

Grants Awarded

The New Jersey State Council on the Arts has made final allocations of its fiscal 2007 grants and has announced its proposed fiscal 2008 grants. Among recipients with state-wide initiatives are:

The Arts Education Consortium for the comprehensive Artists in Education Program built on carrying out long-term artists’ residencies in schools statewide and on teacher and artists training;

Playwrights Theater of New Jersey for the New Jersey Young Writers’ Project of short-term in-school poetry, prose and playwriting residencies in over 150 schools statewide.

Arts Horizons for the 33rd annual Artist Teacher Institute, two, 10-day institutes north and south for the training of educators in utilizing the arts in their schools.

Playwrights Theater of New Jersey in support of New Jersey’s Poetry Out Loud Program of high school poetry recitation contests leading to state and national championships and scholarships.

At the local level, the Council approved that the balance of unallocated funds, currently projected to be $10,242 up to a maximum of $29,000, be awarded to the Friends of the State Museum in support of its re-opening exhibition on the folk arts of New Jersey.

This major, first-of -its kind exhibition will focus on the extraordinary cultural diversity of New Jersey and involve folks arts, folks artists and folks arts centers around the state in a year long celebration of artistic diversity. Funds in support of it have already been awarded from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Further information regarding the arts is found on an interactive website (www.jerseyarts.com) and available on a toll-free hotline (800-THE-ARTS).

Health Watch

New Jersey has the nation’s highest obesity rate in young, low-income children. Therefore, the Department of Health and Senior Services will open a new Office of Nutrition and Fitness to help lead New Jersey’s fight against obesity — the nation’s second leading preventable cause of death after smoking — Health and Senior Services Commissioner Fred M. Jacobs has announced.

The office will oversee more than $2 million in nutrition and fitness programs and will work to implement the New Jersey Obesity Prevention Task Force’s recommendations outlined in its 2006 report, the New Jersey Obesity Prevention Action Plan.

“Too many of us aren’t eating right or exercising enough and, as a result, nearly 60 percent of us weigh too much,” Jacobs said in a prepared statement. “It’s time to face these facts and get to work creating a program that supports all of us in making healthy food and fitness choices. Our health and our children’s health depend on it.”

The new office will coordinate the department’s existing obesity prevention programs. There are programs to promote breastfeeding, promote sports and physical activity at all ages, encourage fruit and vegetable consumption, and provide fresh fruits and vegetables to eligible women, children and seniors.

Other state agencies have launched initiatives that promote healthy nutrition and physical activity. They include:

Department of Transportation. The $15 million Safe Routes to School program helps communities create safer walkways, bikeways and street crossings near schools. It is part of Governor Corzine’s $74 million initiative to improve pedestrian safety statewide.

Department of Agriculture. By September all New Jersey public schools must implement the state’s model school nutrition policy, which limits the fat and sugar content of foods offered. Schools are currently phasing in their policies; 57 percent of schools are already in compliance.

Department of Education. The State Board of Education has revised the Core Curriculum Content Standards to increase the emphasis on nutrition and fitness, including healthy ways to get fit and maintain a proper weight.

New Jersey State Workforce. DHSS and the Department of Personnel have created the Working Well NJ initiative to encourage public employee wellness by providing up-to-date health information and links to other sources of health information. Visit www.state.nj.us/personnel/wellness/index.htm.

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