Even though it is in its early stages, a formal working group has formed in Hopewell Borough to improve equity and inclusion within the community.
The group, which currently consists of 10 borough residents, is called Hopewell For All and has already been meeting twice a month. The group is looking to create and give voice to policies, best practices or community structures that make the borough a welcoming and supporting community for people of all backgrounds.
“We are still in the very infancy of this group and you know we have been meeting in the past couple of months. There are 10 of us now, but we will likely in January open it up to more community members, as we sort of put together some more education and outreach programs … my hope is that we work with other community organizations,” said Councilwoman Samara McAuliffe, who is part of Hopewell For All. “There are so many organizations doing important things for equity and inclusion. We want to be doing our part in Hopewell Borough as well.”
The idea for the group happened organically in 2020, following the national social justice protests that spread across the country and statewide in the spring and summer; and after seeing the reaction to the accusations and investigations of several Hopewell Township police officers and municipal employees accused of improper conduct involving social media in regards to a post on Facebook accusing the Black Lives Matter movement of being a terrorist group.
The Hopewell Township Police Department also serves as Hopewell Borough’s police department.
“After seeing the reaction to the Hopewell Township Police Facebook posting there was a lot of interest in Hopewell Borough about what the borough could be doing better,” McAuliffe said. “It just became almost obvious that it was time for us to put together something more formal. There are so many organizations that are already working so hard in Hopewell Valley, Mercer County, New Jersey and nationally to really listen to our community members and find out what we can be doing better.”
The group’s work on improving equity and inclusion in the borough would be achieved through education, outreach and through other entities and organizations working toward equity and inclusion, such as the Hopewell Valley Regional School District or Mercer County Outdoor Equity Alliance.
“Historical awareness has come up in our meetings as well in tandem with education and outreach. To be aware of where our town evolved from,” McAuliffe said. “I feel super lucky to work with volunteers who are right here in the borough, who want to talk about equity and inclusion in our town, and we know we can do better, we can always do better, so we are just getting started.”
Residents, business owners and people who visit the borough could be part of the working group. The group will be community-driven, community member heavy and will be less of a council or committee.
“Right now it is all borough residents. The working group will stay as it is now, but as we open it up, there would be a level of flexibility depending on the person’s interest outside of the borough. This is not something where there is a specified role or position looking to be filled now,” McAuliffe said.
Anyone who is interested can reach out directly to Borough Administrator Michele Hovan at Borough Hall.
“For all of us the most important thing is to assure that Hopewell Borough is a welcoming and open community and what can we be doing to make that so,” McAuliffe said. “How can we affect our policies, how can we affect our practices, and what can any of us be doing to make sure we are welcoming and inclusive.”