Why Care About Places Like Trenton?

Dear Friend,
These are remarkably challenging and divisive times in our country. With the stresses of rising costs, the seemingly endless pandemic, and social strife, it’s easy for folks to shut out the challenges that surround us.
Why care about places like Trenton?
It can be hard to think about gratitude right now, but we still have so much to be thankful for.
With just 23 percent of Mercer County’s population, Trenton carries a staggering 76 percent of its emergency asthma cases.
Half of Trenton’s children shoulder unhealthy levels of lead in their bloodstream, and lead affected children are 30 times more likely to fail third grade math and reading, 7 times more likely to drop out of school, and 6 times more likely to end up in the juvenile justice system.
On any hot summer day, it’s 10 degrees hotter in Trenton than Hopewell or Princeton.

Most of us recognize the origins of these challenges: poverty, burdened families, structural racism, detached communities, challenged government, crime, and criminal justice system flaws. At Isles we ask: Can we impact these causes in ways that foster self-reliance and, over time, save lots of money?
Our results prove we can.
Working through community-based “isles”, we find ways to clean the air of debilitating toxins by planting trees and gardens that cool neighborhoods, growing fresh food, and electrifying affordable transport. To drive that process, we test and clean up homes and advance public policies to eliminate the threat of lead toxins in dangerous homes, while improving their energy efficiency, and training residents for careers in green, future focused jobs.
But don’t just take my word for it.
“Seeing the change in the community and making it into something better than it was before we started, was my favorite part. We are making a difference in our own City while learning valuable new skills.”
                                           – Jalen, Isles Climate Corps member
Jalen and our other Climate Corps members were part of the first cohort this summer, who were trained by Isles staff to work in the new green economy – gaining practical skills and experiences that will help them land a job in the sustainability sector, while helping Trenton weather the impacts of climate change.
Isles’ team – our whole organization – partners with local groups to build self-reliance and healthy, sustainable communities. We train residents to be lead remediators and certified energy efficiency installers, and spearhead remediation of homes. This year, Isles is building “Trenton Community Street Teams” to train local leaders and youth to connect with their neighbors, discourage violent incidents and then tamp down retaliatory responses to violence, calming neighborhoods. Again, real training yielding healthier, sustainable communities.
Take a look through the attached 2022 highlights document and you’ll see Isles at work. Our 200 plus community gardeners grow thousands of pounds of fresh food and this year we donated 500 pounds of vegetables to local food banks. Isles Youth Institute graduates gain certifications and employment skills and supported 13 trainees in employment over the summer. Isles trained 48 new Community Health Workers, 83 lead paint remediation professionals, and 35 others in energy efficiency work. We also helped another 15 participants secure “green jobs” – taking a critical step towards self-reliance. And to grow our impact, we are scaling our work across the State, by sharing lessons learned through our new Johnson Center of Learning and Impact.
In the year ahead we will continue to pioneer our “whole house” approach, to not only clean up lead, but also save energy and reduce carbon, and at the same time address mold and pests (both drivers of asthma). We’re launching our new electric vehicle ride share service to connect Trenton residents to job opportunities and reduce greenhouse gases and smog.
These are exciting times, but we can’t develop these new models and scale our successful ones without YOU. Our ability to learn, innovate, and act entrepreneurially directly relies upon friends who care and want to see real change happen.
The challenges here are big. That’s why Isles works in Trenton, and now beyond. We need your continued help.
Thank you for choosing to invest and care about family self-reliance and healthy, sustainable communities.

In community,
Chief Executive Officer