Belleville Deputy Mayor De Peña kicks off ‘Hope to Courage’ initiative, but what’s it all about?

De Pena, second from right, taking her oath as Belleville’s deputy mayor in 2021. (File photo)

Whether in her role as Belleville Deputy Mayor, a small business owner, an ordained minister or a trusted friend, Naomy De Peña says many of the conversations she has been having keep reverting to the same issue: fear.

She has even been getting emails and text messages in the middle of the night from those who are nearing a tipping point with anxiety and angst.

The Hope to Courage initiative was born out of De Peña’s vision to lend support to those friends, family members, township residents, fellow parents and anyone else trying to deal with the crushing weight of stress.

Hope to Courage is a holistic, interfaith, interdisciplinary program that began Sunday, Jan. 9 and runs through the end of the month. It can be accessed at no cost via Facebook, YouTube or Instagram through this website:

The daily video messages from doctors, life coaches, financial planners, nutritionists, nurses, art therapists, herbalists, yoga instructors and others are designed to be lifelines of hope and control after everything we’ve experienced during the pandemic.

Whether giving tips on how to declutter a closet or how to create a bigger nest egg for retirement or how to perfect a crescent lunge yoga pose, each video is filled with gratitude as the counterbalance to fear.

“This initiative of 21 days of gratitude came from the perspective that the bridge from fear to hope is gratitude. You can’t be grateful and worried at the same time,” De Peña said. “And that’s really where we start. Let’s identify the resources and the blessings that we have. It really changes your perspective of what you believe you are missing.”

Many of those presenting videos in Hope to Courage are De Peña’s friends and business connections in Belleville. They were asked to participate because of their expertise in areas of common worry, such as money, job security and health.

De Peña says fear warps our perceptions. She uses the example of children at bedtime who think they see monsters crawling out of their closets or lurking under their beds.

“You think you’re seeing something and you’re just activating the `flight or fight’ response, affecting people physically and emotionally,” she said. “Fear is affecting people at a level in which we can’t even predict what the long-term effects of stress will be on the nervous system.”

Hope to Courage also has a musical component that people can turn to for comfort throughout their hectic days.

“This playlist will encourage people to change their habits of turning on the news every morning,” De Peña said. “Instead, you could just connect to these empowering songs that are designed to make you feel better and start your day with a smile.”



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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.