40 Years of Impact

April 2021 marks four decades of Isles’ work to foster self-reliance and healthy, sustainable communities. All year, we’ll be sharing highlights and milestones of our work over the years, as well as what we’re excited about for the future. Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Throwback Photo Slideshow


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Friends of Isles

“Someday, tax policy and other governmental burdens that cripple New Jersey cities may change for the better. For now, Isles’ effective work in communities and its bridge building beyond the city boundaries is leading the way.”

Sam Hamill, Isles Supporter and Former Trustee

“Isles understands that lasting change — for individuals and for our region — requires working on multiple fronts in a synergistic way. It empowers people, it supports other nonprofits, it partners with city and state governments. It is rigorously committed to real outcomes and yet it isn’t afraid to innovate.”

Michele Minter
-Vice Provost for Institutional Equity and Diversity Princeton University

“Whether it’s helping high school students obtain their GED or teaching the city about lead or energy use, Isles is giving people a leg up in life if they are prepared and ready to take advantage of these opportunities. I’ve not come across any organization which has been so flexible, so innovative, both in the nature of its programs and how it mobilizes funding.”

Harold Shapiro, Professor of Economics and Public Affairs and President Emeritus, Princeton University; President Emeritus The University of Michigan

“Isles’ focus on local habitat and environmental issues, their work towards self-sustainability, and their educational components all have a strong appeal to me. The combination of this work into one organization is remarkable.”

Yves Marcuard, Donor

“With Isles, you see where every dollar that is given goes. You see the urban gardening program, you see people in the community getting involved and excited and building their voice to make changes in the community.  You really see your donation making an impact throughout the organization – sewing masks, taking young people on trips for new experiences (I remember a trip to Wyoming!),  preventing lead poisoning. It’s inspiring to see the impact this nonprofit has on the city of Trenton.”

Isles Trustee Rukiya Blackwell

“With Isles there is this notion of creating encompassing services that greatly provide for the community. They really ask, ‘what is needed in these places?’, and find holistic approaches to put theory into practice, try innovative ideas and connect with the community.”

John Higgins, Professor at Princeton University

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Tim Manahan, Vice Chair of Isles Board

“A few years ago I had the chance to get involved in Isles’ work when I joined as a board member.  Self-reliance has always been an important value to me, and I’ve witnessed Isles’ passion for helping people—giving them a boot strap to help improve their lives.  When I started giving to Isles as a donor, I was particularly drawn to the work being done at Isles Youth Institute.   As a father of three boys, I could really understand getting youth to the point where they can in fact be self-reliant, and this notion truly embodies Isles’ mission. 

I think we all reach points in our lives where we feel we not only have the opportunity, but the obligation to give back. We’ve all been given a helping hand and support in our lives–parents, partners, friends and neighbors, coaches and mentors.  By making a Legacy Gift to Isles, I’m able to repay those debts through giving back to those most in need. 

Your gift to Isles helps in continuing their 40-year legacy and supports the organization in all its efforts.  Isles is part of a community that is in need, and the organization’s services, delivery and policy is a model for the county and beyond.  Isles consists of such a dedicated and experienced staff that genuinely supports its mission.  Whether leading a seminar about lead remediation or sharing ideas about electric vehicles, their expertise, energy and empathy shines through for the people and communities they serve.  When Isles hosted their virtual forum this June, it really gave people an opportunity to see the staff in action and continuing to build Isles’ work.  I encourage you to check out this important work at isles.org/forum.

If you are in the position where such a Legacy Gift is possible, consider the need in continuing this vital framework of fostering self-reliance and healthy, sustainable communities.”

John Higgins, Professor at Princeton University

“I came across Isles’ work in remediating lead and wanted to connect my environmental classes at Princeton to lead testing in this area.  I reached out to Marty Johnson and Peter Rose and we soon began collaborating  – my students have participated in Isles’ Healthy Home training classes and have accompanied staff in Trenton during home tests and visits. Princeton in particular has a greater responsibility to the Trenton area, and Isles provides a great and real connection for my students.

I gave my first gift to Isles as a way to grow my work and passion beyond the academic.  I wanted to build a deeper understanding of this impact and work in the community and show how academia can be applied in real world communities.  With Isles there is this notion of creating encompassing services that greatly provide for the community.  They really ask, “what is needed in these places?”, and find holistic approaches to put theory into practice, try innovative ideas and connect with the community.

I give to Isles monthly (opposed to one annual donation) because I feel that it keeps me more connected and intentionally engaged with the community throughout the year.  I continuously look for opportunities to bring in other colleagues or research groups that can help out.  As a donor and partner, I’m happy for the opportunity to help create real solutions and make lasting changes!”

Rukiya Blackwell, Isles Trustee

“Back in 2005, I saw a position through the Trenton Area Stakeholders and applied, and became a project manager for Isles Youth Institute. I loved working with young people, and I am so grateful for Isles. This organization became my motivation for becoming an attorney. I used to speak with these students and young people about following your dreams, and being at Isles inspired me to do exactly that–it’s the reason I had the opportunity to go to Thomas Cooley Law School. Now, as a Board Member, it has been inspirational to see the different things available to my personal community of Trenton, seeing how the organization functions and being able to have a voice in the city.

With Isles, you see where every dollar that is given goes. You see the urban gardening program, you see people in the community getting involved and excited and building their voice to make changes in the community.  You really see your donation making an impact throughout the organization – sewing masks, taking young people on trips for new experiences (I remember a trip to Wyoming!),  preventing lead poisoning. It’s inspiring to see the impact this nonprofit has on the city of Trenton.”

Lou Haszu, Donor and Friend of Isles

Isles’ #40yearsofimpact: Thanks to donors like you, Isles continues to provide valuable services to its community members including gardening, financial planning, and green job training. Read how Donor and Friend of Isles Lou Haszu became active in Isles’ mission, and his reflections on Isles’ impact. Consider making a gift today at isles.org/donate.

“I believe I first heard about Isles through a newspaper article in the early-1980’s, likely after Isles first began to operate. The article focused on community gardening, which I thought was an interesting concept. Having grown up in the Trenton area and being familiar with the city through childhood in the 1960’s, I felt there was a need for a program like community gardening, which not only helped people in the community but also engaged them to become involved. As a result, I decided to make a (small) donation, which I continued to do over the years.

As I recall, I first spoke to Marty Johnson in the late-1980’s after my father passed. My father was a carpenter and had building supplies that my family was looking to donate; Marty couldn’t use them at the time, but referred me to other organizations who might. What always struck me after that conversation, even though I was a small donor, was that Marty would send a note or call me a few times a year just to keep in touch. I always thought that kind of thing was a part of Isles’ magic-connection.

There are several things about Isles that my wife Jacqui and I especially appreciate. Obviously, the various programs, particularly the community gardens, the youth institute, the financial planning, and the green job training and healthy homes initiative; all of them involve things that are important to any community. Perhaps most important to us is Isles’ focus on self-reliance, educating people for success–to use the old cliché, Isles teaches people to fish.”

See our Outcomes page to learn more about Isles’ work.

Isles hosted a free week-long virtual series of webinars, workshops, panels and more that explored community development and environmental challenges and solutions. Watch all forum sessions and learn more at isles.org/forum.