Leading by example: Wellbeing Coalition of Westfield remains active during global pandemic


When the Wellbeing Coalition of Westfield formed in 2019, its leaders had no idea that a global pandemic would soon require a crash course in community need for the organization.

The group, which comprehensively addresses the well-being of the Westfield community, has remained active during the COVID-19 pandemic even though its members haven’t been able to meet in-person. They regularly meet via Zoom and offer resources to those in need.

“We had somewhat of a reboot of leadership and vision, and the pandemic certainly gave us some opportunity to have a lot of meetings along the way,” coalition member Jake Gilbert said. “We have a long list of things we would like to accomplish, but in general, we would like to become a central hub with a purpose of connecting our city, connecting people to each other, connecting people to needs, to work with nonprofits that can fill those needs, connecting nonprofits and organizations to the people.”

The coalition promotes awareness throughout the city.

“A lot of times what you find is we’re a fast-growing city and a lot of people are moving here and don’t know how to get involved or where to get involved and don’t know how to seek help if they need it,” Gilbert said. “A lot of people wait to learn about how to get help until they need it, and that’s sometimes the worst time. Or someone can’t help a friend because they’re not aware of some of these great organizations that exist. We are not trying to do the job for our great nonprofits and the city, but we are trying to serve them in a way that helps them do their job even more efficiently and productive.”

A response team regularly meets with local nonprofits to ensure needs are being met and that there’s no overlap in services or gaps that need filled. To date, Gilbert said there hasn’t been much overlap of services.

“We really haven’t had that, like where a new church comes to town and says, ‘We really want to serve and partner in the community and open a food bank,'” Gilbert said. “Well, maybe that’s not what we need, maybe we need help with transportation or we need help with counseling at discounted rates.”

Even in a time of need like the COVID-19 pandemic, the coalition is accomplishing its mission.

“It’s been really inspiring. We would like to build on that momentum and keep going as the needs change in some sense,” Gilbert said. “We want to keep this spirit of regularly communicating and collaborating going and then build on our capacity to help organizations help our people and residents.”

Gilbert said the organization’s website runs efficiently and that much of the group’s objective is to fashion a COVID-19 response and provide help when the pandemic ends.

“Some of these things may still be needed even if they find an antidote,” he said. “There’s all kinds of different ways to get connected and find the resources in one place, and I’m sure the average citizen in Westfield isn’t going to remember (all the nonprofits), but maybe they can remember us as a central hub, and they’ll know where to go to find help.”

For more, visit wellbeingcoalitionwestfield.com.

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From left, Wellbeing Coalition of Westfield members Danielle Carey Tolan, Kristy Murphy, Jake Gilbert, Kristen Sparks and Laura Crum volunteer at Open Doors, a local food pantry. (Photos by Anna Skinner)

Short- and long-term focus

The Wellbeing Coalition of Westfield is focused on meeting immediate needs. However, its broader goal is to create an action map.

“In the long term, we want to create strategies to define intangible city values and make sure that the Westfield Way is communicated throughout the city,” coalition member Jake Gilbert said. “We want to provide awareness for all of our nonprofits, and again, advocate for our people that need help. We are working on a strategy to launch a web of support so businesses, the faith community, schools and city government can work together on connecting people to the other people and services they need and supporting each other on a community-wide level.”