East Windsor is a sprawling township dotted with subdivisions surrounding the original farmhouses, as well as warehouses, strip shopping centers and big box stores set out along major roads.
Some East Windsor residents have lived in the township for generations, while others are newcomers from other towns and even from other countries who have all decided to put down roots in the town.
Now, a newly formed group – Citizens for East Windsor – aims to bring residents together in the spirit of civic engagement, and to help East Windsor officials address quality of life issues.
Citizens for East Windsor has its own Facebook page, and it is also has its own website at www.eastwindsor.org.
Citizens for East Windsor is the brainchild of Corin Schack, a self-described “former but forever social worker.” She was quickly joined by a handful of other residents, including Raph Copeland.
Schack and Copeland have described Citizens for East Windsor – which was formed less than one month ago – as a grassroots, bottom-up advocacy group that intends to get things done while also providing a forum to empower people to take action themselves.
The nonpartisan group wants to work with community members and businesses, as well as community leaders and local groups, to identify concerns and resolve them “kindly and easily,” Schack said.
“We wish to create a community that can feel empowered to resolve issues, versus just posting them as concerns and never having them resolved,” she said. “Local officials are stretched thin, and it is our responsibility as citizens to be active in our community if we wish to seek any improvements or changes.”
Besides calling attention to neighborhood speeding, members have contacted Jersey Central Power & Light Co. to repair burned-out street lights on Windsor Center Drive. Some members are focused on bicycle safety, while others are working on removing dead trees around the township.
“We have discovered that there is a strong need to support local businesses, farms and volunteer organizations, which has led to the current emphasis on civic engagement. We have morphed into a general promoter of East Windsor Township,” Copeland said.
But the group’s reach has extended even further, as members have pulled together to support one another, Copeland said. Members have raised money to help one resident’s family cover medical expenses and to help another resident’s family pay for expenses after an unexpected death.
“As a community, we raised over $3,700 this month for RISE’s food pantry. We had a food drive, and we were able to fill the RISE pantry minivan up to the ceiling with food,” Schack said.
RISE is a social services agency based in Hightstown Borough that helps Hightstown and East Windsor residents.
Schack said the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the community closer, and the local businesses and organizations are all part of that community. It is impossible for local officials to resolve all issues without community support, she said.
Copeland said there is a need for greater connection between people during challenging times. There is a deepening bond between neighbors as a result of the pandemic, at least online, he said.
“We have slowed down as a society, and we wake up every day to the same neighbors who have been at home and distanced learning and who are needing help with the little things,” Schack said.
Social media has filled the gap and become a useful tool and platform for getting things done and addressing specific needs. Since everything stopped and was put on hold because of the pandemic, people have expanded their circles of support and entertainment through social media, she said.
“Although we are spotlighted as Citizens for East Windsor, we love our Hightstown neighbors just as much. We are becoming more close-knit, in my opinion, due to Facebook groups forming,” Schack said.
“We are hoping to be a positive example of what community teamwork and unity can do. We hope our achievements can help other towns perhaps feel the empowerment to work together, also,” Schack said.