"The Impact of Lead Exposure on our Students" Conference Videos

In November, Isles and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs held a first-of-its-kind conference on Lead and Education. Speakers explored the impact of lead exposure on a child’s developing brain, including lead’s relationship to behavior problems and test scores. Can schools, families, and communities mitigate these impacts? Check out videos from the conference below:

What Schools and Parents Can Do to Mitigate the Impact of Lead Exposure

Mary Jean Brown, Sc.D RN, Harvard School of Public Health, Former Chief, Lead Division, CDC
Vicki Sudhalter, Ph.D. Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities, Staten Island, NY

What Is the Impact of Lead Exposure To Students Brain and School Performance

Janet Currie, Henry Putnam Professor of Economics and Public Affairs, Director of the Center for Health and Well-Being
Ted Lidsky, Neuropsychologist
Jay Schneider, Professor, Departments of Pathology, Anatomy and Cell Biology and Neurology, Thomas Jefferson University

The Impact of Lead Exposure on our Students What Can Schools do to Mitigate the Problem

Ralph Spezio, Ed.D., Executive Principal, (Ret.), Rochester City School District

Lead Related Education Law and Policy

Peter Chen, Staff Attorney, Advocates for Children of New Jersey
Jennifer Rosen Valverde, Clinical Professor of Law, Legal Director, H.E.A.L. Collaborative
David G Sciarra, Executive Director, Education Law Center

On The Ground From Flint, MI How Are Educators Responding To The Lead Exposure Epidemic

Mona Hanna-Attisha, MD MPH FAAP, Director, Pediatric Public Health Initiative, Hurley Children’s Hospital at Hurley Medical Center, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, Department of Pediatrics and Human Development

30th Anniversary Horse Plow


On Thursday, April 12, a team of horses and staff from Howell Living History Farm arrived at Chestnut Ave Community Garden for Isles’ Annual Horse Plow. This year marked a special milestone in the history of the partnership between Isles and Howell Farm as we celebrated our 30th anniversary (to the exact date) of our first collaborative community garden plow.

The Chestnut Avenue garden is the largest and oldest of more than 70 community and school gardens in Trenton, and it has hosted Howell Living History Farm plow teams for the majority of those 30 years. Operated by the Mercer County Park Commission, the Farm demonstrates farming techniques used in the U.S. at the turn of the 20th century and in many parts of the world today. Local students helped guide the horses and learned about corn shelling, composting, beekeeping, and more.

“It’s an incredible day where school kids, farm staff, and community gardeners learn and work together to build a better future through food. We are proud to share this tradition with Howell Farm and the community. The day happens quietly year after year, but carries a powerful significance that transcends generations as well as urban and rural landscapes,” says Jim Simon, Isles Deputy Director of Community Planning.

We were glad to have Councilwoman Marge Caldwell-Wilson and Aaron Watson, Executive Director of the Mercer County Park Commission, in attendance.

Councilwoman Caldwell-Wilson shared, “One of the reasons that I am such a huge supporter of Isles is how they teach children in the city about everything–whether it’s educating them in math, or how to plow a field or grow vegetables. I do appreciate all their hard work in our open spaces, and they always include our kids which is really, really important.”

March 2017

Dear Friends,

The news from Washington, D.C. is unsettling for us too. Since we created Isles 36 years ago in the early days of the Reagan administration, we’ve weathered lots of changing political and economic winds. Still, some of you have asked, “how do today’s changes affect Isles and the places where we work?”

First, we’ve tried to minimize our reliance on public funding over the years by diversifying our funding sources. Today, about 25% of Isles’ work still relies on federal government sources, including departments of Labor, HUD, and the EPA.

Those sources fund the clean up of homes that saves kids and seniors from permanent lead poisoning. Their grants enable drop-outs to step back in through education and job training, and they support residents who reclaim and restore tough neighborhoods. (They are worth the investment. I live here, I know.)

These funds (along with the other 75% of our funding) support our mission to foster family self-reliance and healthy communities. They enable us to invest in and impact people and places too often outside the economic mainstream.

Second, if those investments don’t happen, we know this: the costs to society and to taxpayers grow a lot! More people will be sick, failing in school, part of the costly prison pipeline, and so on. That is very expensive. As a result, Isles’ work transcends right and left partisan thinking.

The federal impact on Isles and the community we serve is real, and we won’t know more until the ink dries later this spring on the Federal Budget. Until then, please know that we are committed to transparency and keeping you updated on impacts to our work.

More than ever, Isles stands as an anchor institution that helps neighbors and places persevere through uncertain times. We will rise above the stultifying pressures of the moment we are in and continue to serve, just as we’ve done for 36 years.

And that’s where you come in. Help us find ways forward by engaging and investing with us. Visit our work, tour our gardens, mentor or tutor our IYI students, or volunteer some time.

Your support keeps us optimistic and moving forward. Indeed, it makes Isles possible.

Thank you for being there.

In community,

February 2017

This month, the NJ Climate Adaptation Alliance Advisory Committee—of which I am a member—released a Climate and Health Profile Report as a draft. It outlines how climate change is expected to impact the health of New Jersey residents and recommends actions in order to minimize those effects.

Contributors to the draft include the New Jersey Society for Public Health Education, New Jersey Association of County and City Health Officials, New Jersey Association of Public Health Nurse Administrators, New Jersey Public Health Association, New Jersey Local Boards of Health Association, and New Jersey Environmental Health Association. All are invited to submit comments on the draft by March 17th 2017.

New Jersey’s “Climate and Health Profile Report” is the beginning of a much needed public health conversation about the impacts of climate change. Take a look at the report and join in the conversation.

Welcome, New Isles Trustees

Isles is pleased to announce five new members to our Board of Trustees. Marty Johnson, Isles’ President and CEO says, “These trustees guide and support Isles, while also representing those we serve throughout the region. We are honored to work alongside them.” New Trustees include:

Christopher Cramer is the Vice President of Business Development at CytoSorbents, a critical care company specializing in blood purification to control deadly inflammation in critically-ill and cardiac surgery patients. Previously, he was Senior Director of New Venture Development at Johnson & Johnson (J&J). Prior to that, he was the Worldwide Strategic Marketing leader responsible for developing and executing branding and business development strategies for J&J’s minimally invasive weight-loss surgery division. Prior to J&J, he held multiple leadership positions at PwC Consulting and Parametric Technology Corporation. Chris earned his BS degree from Miami University and MBA and MS degrees from Carnegie Mellon University. He joined Isles’ Board of Trustees in 2017.

Gary A. Gray is a Director of Finance in the Global Wealth and Investment Management division of Bank of America Merrill Lynch. His responsibilities have included the accounting functions of financial statement preparation, foot note disclosure, and general ledger installation.  Business management functions over his career have encompassed budgeting, project management, regulatory reporting, financial projection preparation as well as new product reviews.  Mr. Gray received a B.S. degree in Accounting from Hampton University and is currently pursuing a MBA from Rider University.  Additionally, Mr. Gray is a proud member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. He joined Isles’ Board of Trustees in 2017.

Karen McGuinness serves as the Associate Dean for Graduate Education at Princeton University. Before she assumed her current role in fall 2004, she was a Lecturer in Public and International Affairs at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School, teaching a range of courses, including The Politics of Public Policy, Gender and Development; Bottom Up Approaches to Development; Alternative Development Strategies; and Undergraduate Policy Taskforces on Microfinance and Poverty Reduction. She received an MPA from Woodrow Wilson, and worked for the Ford Foundation in New York and New Delhi for more than 6 years covering human rights and capacity building in China, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. Karen also has an M.A. in Government from Cornell and has conducted research on social movements, pro-poor policies and policy change in Andhra Pradesh.

Melanie Willoughby is the Chief Government Affairs Officer of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA), where she leads a highly respected lobbying team, fighting for pro-business policies in the legislature as well as workforce development and innovation. She is the founder and co-chair of the InnovationNJ Coalition, which promotes innovation collaboration between business and higher education. In 2012, she was appointed by Governor Chris Christie to the New Jersey State Employment and Training Commission, where she chairs the NJ Employability Skills Task Force, and in 2004, she was appointed to the NJ Mandated Health Benefits Advisory Commission, where she is currently Vice Chair. Melanie is also actively involved in the Rutgers College Alumni Association, Junior Achievement, and the New Jersey Women’s Political Caucus. She is a Rutgers University Eagleton Institute Visiting Fellow and has a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers College. Melanie joined Isles’ Board of Trustees in 2017.

Willard Stanback has been engaged in the practice of law for more than 20 years. He is the principal of Willard Alonzo Stanback P.C., where he assists high-tech, low-tech and “no-tech” clients in the creation, protection and commercialization of their business and individual objectives.  Previously, he worked in the legal affairs department of the E.W. Scripps Company, Sega Channel, Reed Smith, and Morgan & Finnegan. Willard holds a B.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Masters of Engineering and J.D. from University of Virginia. Willard joined Isles’ Board of Trustees in 2017.





February Spotlight: The Ingram-Robinson Family

When Joy Ingram-Robinson’s 2-year-old daughter starting showing signs that she was sick, her mother thought it was because she was a premature baby. “Her fingernails came off but she wasn’t in any pain,” Ingram-Robinson described outside of the family’s home. “I just want what’s best for my baby because my baby already fought to be here: she was only born 1 pound 5 ounces.” rq

So Ingram-Robinson took little J’Selle to the doctor, and found that  2 year-old’s blood lead levels tested at 5 micrograms per deciliter, which is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reference point for action.

There is no cure for a child that has been poisoned by lead. The damage is permanent, though the extent of the issues for J’Selle will probably not be known for years. Even at low levels, lead can affect cognition, behavior, and IQ, and each lead poisoned child costs up to $31,000 per year in special education, health care, and crime costs. 

J’Selle’s poisoning did not occur from untreated water or an unforeseen issue. It came from lead dust from old paint in her family’s home. For a few new windows, some encapsulating paint, and a roof repair, this child could have been spared the lifelong issues that come from being exposed to this silent toxin.  

This is not an isolated case.  Thousands of homes in Trenton — and other older cities in NJ — have never received any lead safe work, nor have families been informed about the potential dangers surrounding where they should be safest: their home. NJ children are at risk everyday.

Thankfully, this home and about 200 more will receive lead safe remediation services from Isles in the next 3 years.  For about $10,000 a unit, we make homes safe and healthy, preventing future children from being poisoned by lead. For  every $1 we spend on this work, Isles returns up to $221 to the community in lower taxes, special education expenses, and other societal costs.  

Isles also successfully advocates for stronger, long-overdue lead policies to protect children; tests homes for the presence lead and other hazards; delivers education to protect families; and trains contractors in lead safe work and community members on the health hazards of lead. 

With public and private investment into Isles’ multifaceted healthy homes approach, we believe that Trenton can be a lead-safe city by 2025. Join us by donating to this important work today.

January 2017

Back in 1994, Isles was rehabilitating old, vacant single family homes scattered across Trenton. Families that wanted to own their first home purchased these efficient, low-cost houses that helped stabilize families and communities.  

But while we redeveloped homes, another challenge and opportunity arose: young people kept knocking on the door of our job sites, asking for work. Isles’ construction manager David Styner would hire and train the young people and found that even if they had solid construction skills, too often they lacked a high school diploma.  

At the time, (and even up until today), nearly 40% of all freshman in Trenton High failed to graduate on time.  As a result, Isles developed the Isles Youth Institute (IYI) to blend the academic, vocational, and life skills that many young people need and want to succeed.  As they learn, they redevelop homes and parks in their communities, multiplying IYI benefits.

Today, IYI offers a caring, ‘tough love’ alternative training school for nearly 100 young people annually. Students learn to be more than workers–they are leaders against violence in their communities, participants in community and environmental work, and many go on to higher education.  

Isles’ mission is to foster self-reliant families and healthy, sustainable communities.  IYI keeps us honest to that goal and grounded in bringing real opportunities to young high school kids that once chose to leave school.  


P.S. Check out our January e-newsletter highlighting Isles Youth Institute here.

Mill One Office for Lease

There is a 4,325 sq ft. creative/loft space available at Mill One perfect for an architect or advertising office.

Located in a reclaimed brick factory building, this wide open space features an unusual truss ceiling and access to a kitchen, conference rooms, roof deck, and event space.

Mill One, 1 N Johnston Ave. Hamilton, is less than 2 miles from the Hamilton and Trenton train stations with easy access to Routes 1 and 295.

View the listing to learn more.

About Mill One:

Mill One is a Social Profit Center drawing together public interest non-profit and arts spaces, private businesses, and 45 units of housing under one roof. It offers:

  • An appealing arts-themed hub to draw outsiders back into the community and offer local residents access to new spaces and events
  • Secure, low cost space for nonprofits and artists who will benefit from shared services
  • Civic spaces to benefit the larger community
  • Office, warehouse, and distribution spaces for businesses
  • Preservation of an historic factory building with many appealing architectural features

Learn more about Mill One here.

Fall 2016

As we head into the fall and into the depths of the election season (yikes!), I’m pleased to share this IslesWorks newsletter with you.  

We’re honored to be one of 77 organizations nationwide to recently receive a US Dept of Labor YouthBuild grant. Isles Youth Institute’s 21st class of students started this fall, giving us a chance to work with inspiring young people who, despite leaving high school, really want a high school diploma and much more.  

We also find creative ways to revitalize places in the region.  Even if they are temporary, some projects, like the parklet, show what is possible within the footprint of only one parking space in the city.  

Singer/songwriter Dar Williams helps us kick off a series of 35th anniversary events on October 29.  Dar is a kindred spirit and old friend, so we are really pleased she agreed to perform again for us.

Also, as part of our 35th year, we’ve reached out to 35 key people who have made a big impact on Isles over the years.  What a fun way to be reminded of all the strong shoulders we stand upon.

Finally, Amazon Smile offers a chance for you to make donations to Isles, just by buying stuff on Amazon.  Take a look at how you can help us for free!

Check out our fall enewsletter here

In community,

Rise to 35: Our Common Unity

Update: Thanks to friends and supporters like you, we hit our campaign goal! Thank you!

For 35 years, Isles has been rising to the challenge of helping families become more self-reliant, and creating healthier communities in our region. We know that community challenges can be overcome by thoughtful, courageous people, working across the old boundaries of partisanship, ethnicity, religion, or zip code.  Isles channels the power of our common unity to help people build the lives they want for themselves.

It’s challenging work, and in this milestone year, your support is more important to us than ever. As political winds shift, Isles is focused on strengthening our services, and making sure that our community has the tools they need to rise to the challenges they face every day. We work together to keep our young adults out of the costly prison pipeline, save our youth from lead poisoning for life, train our workers to be financially stable, improve our health and budgets by supporting fresh food in the city, and the list goes on. Our common cause is our community.

Rise to the challenge with us. Starting today and ending on December 31st, Isles aims to raise $35,000 in online donations to fund the critical services we provide for families in our community. Your gift will help us continue the important work you can see highlighted in our 2016 Report.

All donations up to $10,000 will be matched by a generous donor who is committed to Isles’ mission. Double your impact today by donating online using the form below, and share the challenge with your friends on Facebook or Twitter. #Riseto35 #OurCommonUnity #Isles35th

Thank you for joining Isles in our mission to strengthen families and build healthy, sustainable communities.  Want your gift to have an even bigger impact?  Consider making a recurring gift and you’ll be helping people to help themselves all year long! Or find out how to make a gift of appreciated stock here.

We’re honored to be a part of the Dodge Foundation’s 2016 Give Back Guide! Check out Isles’ listing here.