Isles: Explained

Can we describe Isles’ work in 100 seconds? We’ve created a simple illustrated video of our work to foster self-reliant families and healthy, sustainable community. Follow the story of Betty to learn more about the services Isles offers and how it impacts the community, and let us know what you think!

Message from Isles Leadership

Dear Isles Family and Friends,


It is with profound sorrow that we share the news that Amor Adeva, Isles’ Grants Accountant, passed away on Thursday, 4/11 after experiencing a medical emergency in our offices.


Our Isles family is shocked and saddened by this unexpected and tragic event. Amor was a kind and gentle presence at Isles, always smiling for the many staff and partners who relied on her. A quiet, thoughtful friend, Amor was deeply committed to the people and work of Isles. We loved her and will miss her deeply.


Born and raised in the Philippines, Amor joined Isles in 2012 after working as an Auditor/Accountant at TCBA Watson Rice LLP and A.F. Paredes & Co. Amor received her education in the Philippines as well, earning a Bachelor of Laws from San Sebastian College of Law in Manila and her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the Philippines School of Business Administration.


Amor is survived by her husband, stepchildren, and grandson in Piscataway, as well as many family and friends here and in the Philippines. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers. We are in communication with her family, and will keep you apprised of funeral arrangements as details become available.


In 2013, after Typhoon Yolanda devastated the Philippines, Isles and our staff contributed to the relief effort in Amor’s honor. “MABUHAY TAYONG LAHAT” she had written to us in gratitude, “We Welcome All.” Amor was a welcoming spirit for all who knew her.  We are grateful to have known and loved her, and we hope her family finds peace in the coming days, knowing she did so much for others. 


Thank you for your patience and understanding as we grieve the loss of our friend and colleague.


In community,


John Hart, Marty Johnson, and the staff of Isles


Double Dutch Tournament to be Rescheduled

The Double Dutch tournament will be held at a later date and setting.  Please check back here for future updates.

Below is additional information about the tournament:

  • Free event
  • Eligible Age Groups: 7-12, 13-18, 19 and over.
  • Three participants per team.  Participants will be judged on technical ability, creativity, and presentation.
  • Jump ropes will be provided for the competition.  Bring your own to warm up with. 
  • Trophies will be awarded.

March Update

Dear Friends,

More and more, we talk – and worry – about social inequality, climate change, authoritarian rule – and can we make meaningful change?

Yes, in many ways, the bad ‘system is rigged.’ But can we rig a good system, too?  Yes, but it requires more than talk and worry – it requires action.

For over 38(!) years, we took our youthful energy, ideas and willingness to learn and applied them to Isles’ work.  We found better ways to strengthen challenged communities and restore the environment at the local, “isles” level.  The key is to honor family capacity for self-reliance, provide tools that they can use, create healthy places and then, to a large extent, get out of the way. 

Our staff, board, and volunteers honor the wisdom of communities, gaining new ideas. We   then share smart research and evidence-based data from across the country.  Our broad base of supporters makes innovation possible in this messy collision. The results are highlighted in this Annual Report

Can we teach others to do this?  Of course. Increasingly, we share our lessons and train others.  This year, Isles affected statewide policy around hazardous home lead threats, violence prevention and electric vehicle access for urban communities. I expanded my teaching of future leaders at the Keller Center at Princeton University, and we developed webinars, case studies for the classroom, op-eds, and we are compiling Isles’ history. All this occurred as we expanded Isles work on the ground. 

This doing and thinking are possible because of organized people and organized money. That includes our volunteer board, adeptly led by Michele Minter over the past 3 years. In January, Linda Revelle stepped into the role of Chair of Isles board of trustees. 

These are exciting, dynamic times at Isles. Beyond talk and worry, we act. But we need your help. Thanks for being there! Check out and let us know what you think.

In community,


Free Lead Testing

If your house or apartment was built before 1978, you may have lead paint in your home. Lead-based paint, even if hidden under layers of newer lead-free paint, can break down because of age, poor maintenance, or household repairs. Lead can also be found in your water from old plumbing pipes, soil, and even in children’s jewelry, toys, and old pottery. Lead in water has gotten a lot of attention lately, but dust from lead paint can be even more dangerous to young children. 80% or more of lead poisoning is caused by lead paint.

No amount of lead is safe for children under 6. It can cause severe attention, behavior, and learning problems. Lead poisoning is a life-long issue, but lead poisoning is preventableThe first step in protecting your children from lead poisoning is to have your home tested for lead.

Isles wants to test your home’s water and paint for lead at no cost. In fact, we’ll pay you $5 for taking this step towards a healthier home.

How it Works

Isles’ Community Health Workers will set up an appointment and come to your home to:

  • Test for the presence of lead
  • Test for other indoor issues that might be making asthma or other health conditions worse
  • Give you tips on how to keep your home lead safe and healthy
  • Give you a free gift bag of safe cleaning products and a $5 cash gift!

If we find lead in your home’s paint or dust, we can immediately enroll you in a program to provide repairs and maintenance to address the lead paint issues for free. If lead is found in your soil or water, we will provide you with information to help you keep your family safe. After the assessment, you could qualify for up to $12,000 in home repairs.

Check your eligibility

There is no income qualification for testing. All Trenton residents are invited to sign up to test their home for lead.

There is an income qualification for remediation. In order to qualify for free repairs to your home, you may not exceed our income cap. Check the table below to make sure your household income is less than the one listed for the number of people in your home.

If you have questions about your eligibility, contact us at 609-341-4726 or 609-341-4756.

Please note that Isles is not a government agency. We will not track your immigration status and we can provide testing services regardless of your status.


Keep your family safe from lead. Testing takes less than 1 hour and is scheduled at your convenience.


Call 609-341-4726 or sign up below:

Happy Holidays

Happy holidays!

Long ago, someone said, “Do something with your life that’s beautiful and will last.” That sentiment stuck with me, and I suspect you can relate to it too.

Is there anything more beautiful and lasting than helping others? Especially when “helping” means empowering families and communities – even tough ones – to be better, healthier, and more stable? And it goes on. Each person, each family we help offers a better chance for their children. It’s an enduring legacy and yes, research shows that helping others is both healthy and contagious.

 You can affect a family’s stability, their children’s health and IQ, their nutrition, their wealth, the health of their homes, and even climate change.

How? By supporting the work we do, and have done, for 37 years. As you can see from the attached highlights, Isles is a rare organization that finds innovative ways to strengthen families and make environments healthier.

Isles provides tools and training to foster self-reliance. Fundamentally entrepreneurial, we teach students and their parents how to grow their own healthy food in over 60 community gardens, how to convert toxic homes to healthy ones for children, and how to manage finances in ways that build wealth.

We also create healthy, energy efficient, sustainable places to live, work and play. Isles rebuilds homes, solar-powered former factories, parks, greenways, and more.  We then share that knowledge with others.

Isles saves families and taxpayers lots of money, reducing costs for energy, food, health care, education, housing, and much more.

These stories show how your support impacts families, kids, and communities.


Junior year, Julio left high school. In his words, “I didn’t know what to do, and I was embarrassed at being at a seventh-grade level, so I stopped going…”

In six short months, after entering the “tough-love” culture of Isles Youth Institute (IYI), he completed the rigorous Mental Toughness orientation, studied hard, attained certifications in carpentry and fork-lift operation, and interned at NASCAR’s Urban Youth Racing School. Later, he earned a diploma and even won the 2018 IYI Elizabeth Gray Erickson award for optimism and courage.

“It was a feeling I can’t really explain. It’s like your life is declining and you’re doing so bad, but then you finally feel like you succeeded in something. For your life to hit a 180 – man, it’s a great feeling, I loved it.” Julio thrived at IYI, and now works there helping other students travel the same path.


The Perez family fell behind in their mortgage after the birth of their twin boys. Isles’ Housing Counselor Elena helped them negotiate with the bank to successfully modify their mortgage. 

But the story doesn’t end there. Elena learned that one of the twins had elevated blood lead levels, so she connected them to Isles’ lead and healthy homes workers. They discovered the source of the lead: deteriorating windows. Within a few weeks, Isles repaired the house, and the child’s lead levels have come down.

As a result, several of Mr. Perez’s co-workers have come to us to buy a first home, improve their credit, get a mortgage, or test and clean lead in their home.


You can see the difference your investment makes. This entrepreneurial work only happens when you and others get involved. 

Please mail your annual gift today or make a secure gift at

We need your help more than ever. Thank you for caring, and acting.

With gratitude and in community,


Happy Thanksgiving


Dear Friend,

The Dalai Lama once said, “The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness.”

That is both metaphor and real for us at Isles. Through community and school gardens, over 1,000 culturally diverse families and students grow tens of thousands of pounds of fresh food – and deep roots – in the soil of Trenton and beyond.

This time of year, we give thanks to you for helping us build and turn that “soil of appreciation.” Our work would not be possible without you.

In the coming days, you’ll receive a request for support from Isles, describing the impacts you made possible in 2018. We’ll also launch our online #GivingTuesday campaign just after Thanksgiving.

I hope you will help us develop meaningful pathways to family self-reliance and community health.

And I trust you agree – we can use more goodness in the country and world! We can cultivate it together.

From all of us here at Isles, have a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Marty Johnson

Trenton Then & Now


Ever walk down a street in Trenton and wonder what it looked like a century ago? Then and Now is an ongoing photo-history project that retakes a photograph from the same perspective as the original. It focuses on Downtown Trenton’s historic businesses and often overlooked beautiful architecture – especially those that can only be seen in photographs. Every Friday, we release a new location at, so go check it out!

North Stockton Street: Built in 1900, these row-homes still maintain much of their original architecture. Many were abandoned for decades, but with the help of several partners including Isles and Ajax Downtown, they were successfully restored.

State Street: Top hats, long coats, billboards, and old cars, check out the bustling State Street of 1934. You can swipe between the Then & Now images of State Street at the link below, and read a little bit about Downtown Trenton’s fascinating history here:

Isles' Paper Published in Federal Reserve

Why do we pay so much attention to child lead poisoning? For starters, thousands (up to half) the kids in Trenton and older suburbs can be affected by it. Research is increasingly clear – even at low levels, lead impacts IQ, behavior, and other health factors. With all the talk of and investment in education reform, nothing would be more cost effective at increasing child IQ in a region than removing lead from the environment, especially from homes, where kids spend 70% of their time.

As importantly, despite lots of complex research and policy position papers and even financial investment, a basic problem prevailed. Before Isles’ efforts, no one had characterized the source of the lead in Trenton. We tested thousands of homes, learned that 80% of the lead comes from their dust (not their water, like Flint). But we didn’t stop there. We developed low cost ways to make homes both energy efficient and healthy. We also trained local contractors to do the same, while working to gain the trust of residents and property owners, who for good reason, often don’t like folks inspecting their homes.

To a large extent, because of Isles’ experience, New Jersey’s Lead Pilot funding program was re-structured and re-funded at $10M annually. We’re successfully raising other funds to do targeted renovation of homes, making them safe, efficient, and comfortable, while creating quality jobs in the process. The long-term savings to families and taxpayers are immense – $17 – $54 saved for every $1 invested in preventing lead poisoning. With this experience and policy changes we are pursuing, we can set our sights on making Trenton homes lead safe by 2027.

Like other work that we develop at Isles, we are teaching community groups and policymakers our lessons. We are very pleased that the Federal Reserve of San Francisco recently published our paper, When Homes Are the Most Dangerous Place: How a Community Development Organization Learned to Get the Lead Out. It offers a story of perseverance, success and educational failures over 15 years. Why does the Federal Reserve care about this? Because their member banks hold over a trillion dollars in assets that are potentially poisoning children. It’s time to figure this out.

All of this occurred because social entrepreneurs decided to keep finding better ways to foster self-reliance and community health. It took over 15 years and willingness to work on the ground and learn from researchers.

It also took flexible sources of funds to pay for this learning – and action. Unrestricted funding from donors like you made it possible. Thank you.

Do Your Shopping through Amazon Smile

Isles is registered with Amazon Smile, a seamless program that donates a percentage of your Amazon purchases to nonprofits at no cost to you.

What is Amazon Smile?
Amazon Smile is a program that donates 0.5% of eligible purchases to a charity of your choice. So, for example, if you purchased a book for $10, five cents of that purchase would go directly to Isles. Every little bit counts!

How do I sign up?
Here are some easy steps to follow to use Amazon Smile:

  1. When you’re ready to make your next purchase on Amazon, go to
  2. Use your normal Amazon username and password to log in.
  3. Once you log in, you’ll see a search bar at the bottom of the page where you can “Pick your own charitable organization”
  4. Type in “Isles, Inc”
  5. Click the yellow “Select” button to the right of our name.
  6. Now start shopping!

Do I have to remember all those steps every time I want to buy something?
No, you just have to select Isles the first time. Then all you need to remember is to go to when you shop!

If I go to, do I miss out on products from
No, the smile site offers the exact same products as the site. You’re not missing out on anything by using (Note that not all products on the Smile site will be eligible for the donation, but all products will be there.)

How can I tell if a purchase qualifies for Amazon Smile?
You will see eligible products marked “Eligible for Amazon Smile donation” on their product detail pages.

Does it cost me anything extra?
No, not at all. You pay the same amount as you normally would for your Amazon purchases.

Does Isles see what I buy?
We can’t see what you buy. In fact, Amazon does not share any information about those who have signed up  – it’s completely anonymous. However, we do encourage you to let us know that you have signed up for it, so we can recognize you as an Isles supporter.  


Thank you for supporting Isles! If you have any additional questions, please contact resource development at 609.341.4734.