Founded in 1981, Isles, Inc. is a community development and environmental organization based in Trenton, New Jersey. With a mission to foster self-reliant families and healthy, sustainable communities, we design and develop effective services that support this mission and share what we learn with others who can make a difference.
- revitalizes communities by working alongside local residents to plan their neighborhoods’ future and to develop energy efficient, affordable and healthy homes, parks, gardens, shared facilities, and more
- trains and educates adults and youth through an alternative high school, green job training center and family support services
- builds wealth through innovative financial services and loans that help restore credit and increase savings
- promotes healthy living by tackling environmental hazards, fostering energy efficiency, improving open space, and expanding access to locally grown food
Pathways to Self-Reliance
Isles offers multiple pathways to self-reliance. We offer tools and training to improve credit, earn a GED, gain job-readiness skills, convert vacant lots to gardens, target abandoned and substandard land and buildings for rehabilitation and cleanup, and create redevelopment plans. In each case, we research and develop innovative, practical solutions, offer them to the community, learn from the outcomes, then use what we learn to influence others. Some examples of our work include:
For low and moderate income families, buying a first home can build a bridge to financial success. Isles prepares homeowners to buy and/or protect their home from foreclosure. Isles also builds homes for ownership, and develops innovative ways for employees in the region to become more financially resilient and capable through Isles Financial Solutions. IFS helps families tackle unsustainable debt, while offering a blend of training and counseling services, coupled with low-cost loans, to help our customers budget, make wise financial choices, increase savings, and improve credit scores.
Train and Educate
In Trenton, many students drop out of high school for a range of reasons, including the need for income to care for children, siblings, or relatives with disabilities, frustration with their own poor academic skills, the culture and dangers of high school, substance addiction or other factors. These detached students face multiple barriers to self-sufficiency, like criminal records, parent responsibilities, unsafe homes, inadequate transportation to jobs and unsafe streets. Since they carry a high risk of future incarceration, society pays dearly for these “at-risk” but capable youth. Breaking this prison and poverty cycle can be highly cost effective. Since 1995, Isles offers an alternative track for high school diplomas and vocational training in construction and nursing. Isles Youth Institute serves youth and families with life skills support and case management services. Isles also advocates for investing in youth before they enter the prison pipeline.
Isles plans and develops real estate projects including affordable housing, open spaces, and community facilities. Isles works with residents and other stakeholders to create neighborhood master plans. To implement those plans, Isles collaborates with funders, community groups, and public officials to fund and help manage development projects on the ground. Over the years, Isles has co-founded regional and statewide organizations that serve as building blocks for community development. For example, in 1984, Isles identified barriers to financing community development in Trenton and statewide, and then organized state leaders to form New Jersey Community Capital (NJCC), an independent, statewide, nonprofit corporation, that now manages over $850 million in capital, investing in community development.
Promote Healthy Living
Our health depends upon what we put in our bodies, how we move it around, and the environment around us. Since most of us, especially children, spend most time in our homes, Isles has researched the effect of home environmental hazards on our health and potential for self-reliance. In Trenton and older communities around New Jersey, the most dangerous place for children is in their own home. Lead, asthma triggers, and other hazards affect thousands of children every day.
After testing over 2500 homes, Isles has developed the capacity to remediate and abate home hazards at a low cost and educate residents on protecting their health. Based on this learning and experience, Isles helps others, including policymakers, to apply the same approaches to other settings. Isles created the New Jersey Healthy Homes Training Center to train and certify home health workers, contractors, building inspectors, weatherization workers, and other professional networks that can improve community health.
This year, Isles expanded its services and public education across the state of New Jersey.
Click here to view our Learning Over the Years chart.