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The Housing Authority of the City of Elizabeth (HACE) YouthBuild Elizabeth partnered with businesses and nonprofits in support of Mental Health Action Day, one of 22 official Mental Health Action Network events in the U.S. on May 16, and the only one in New Jersey. 

As part of the Mental Health Action Network, the greater Union County community was invited to step away and join others for a refreshing mental health break by engaging in activities such as yoga, sound baths, meditation, dance therapy, and more. Community organizations were also in attendance to share their resources. 

The goal of the holiday is to shift the culture of mental health from awareness to action. The Union County event was hosted in partnership with SHOWTIME/MTV Entertainment Studios, the nonprofit Someone’s Daughter, the global “think and do” tank Maple & Monroe, and the Housing Authority of the City of Elizabeth (HACE) YouthBuild Elizabeth. 

“We are always seeking opportunities to expand horizons for our residents,” said HACE Executive Director William D. Jones. YouthBuild Elizabeth is just one of the many initiatives and partnerships that invoke beneficial changes to the mental, physical, financial, and emotional well-being of not only our residents at HACE but also the greater Elizabeth community.” 

 Shakira Monet Johnson, the founder and chief impact officer Maple & Monroe, said the 2024 event was special because it took the Mental Health Action Day directly into the community. 

 “By hosting it at the Mravlag Manor Community Center we have been able to increase our impact with local underserved youth and demonstrate activities for health and wellness that can be used to improve their everyday life,” Johnson said. “We thank Paramount MTV Studios for again trusting us with this most important work.” 

 Community organizations in attendance included Bridgeway Behavioral Health Services, Mental Health Association in New Jersey; Great Joy Counseling; Union County Department of Human Services; Union County Department of Social Services; Mental Health is Health; Kean Cares Clinic; Elizabeth Department Of Health And Human Services; ARRIVE Together – Union County Prosecutor’s Office; United Way of Greater Union County; Urban League of Union County; Dr. Randy Sconiers, DSW, LCSW (Dr. S), New Steps Counseling, LLC; PROCEED, Inc. 

 YouthBuild Elizabeth aims to provide participants with the “keys to success” as they pursue advantageous career paths. YouthBuild Elizabeth helps young adults, ages 16-24, from the City of Elizabeth earn both their high school diploma equivalency and trade skills, including national construction and medical certifications. For more information about HACE’s YouthBuild Elizabeth program, contact YouthBuild Elizabeth Director Nikea Young-Bagley, MSW, LSW, at 908-965-2400 ext. 131 or visit