An Important Step to Ending Childhood Lead Poisoning

Today New Jersey took another important step towards eliminating lead poisoning of our children. The Senate Committee on Economic Growth passed S-1147, a bill that will treat toxic lead like toxic radon, requiring inspections for lead paint hazards in both rental units and before a home is sold.

With New Jersey families spending increased time at home during the pandemic, it is more important than ever that we address this silent, invisible neurotoxin that causes permanent damage to children and health problems later in life. Isles, with decades of on-the-ground experience in home assessments, lead remediation, training, and policy, will continue to push for common-sense reforms to protect children.

The public sector cannot correct lead hazards alone. Landlords and homeowners need to be part of the solution.

Today’s vote is a critical first step. Next, the bill advances to the Senate Budget Committee, and public hearings will occur on the Assembly side in preparation for a floor vote in both houses. Stay tuned for more updates as it moves forward.
We thank Senators Ruiz, Cruz-Perez, Turner, Singleton, Smith, and Oroho, and all the other key legislators for their leadership and support on this issue. And we’re grateful for the work of our partners, including the Housing & Community Development Network of NJ, Green & Healthy Homes Initiative, Advocates for Children of New Jersey, New Jersey Future, the The Fund for New Jersey, and many others.

It’s time for NJ to address lead hazards at the source of contamination—to prevent lead poisoning in the first place—before we pay the exploding costs of special education, criminal justice, and lost lives. We look forward to making this change happen, with the support of good people in New Jersey.

Isles Names Sean Jackson as Chief Executive Officer

Trenton, NJ – Isles, a nonprofit community development and environmental organization headquartered in Trenton, NJ, is pleased to announce that Sean Jackson has been selected to serve as its new Chief Executive Officer, effective October 1st. Sean will succeed President Marty Johnson, who founded Isles as part of a student-led initiative at Princeton University in 1981.

A long-term trustee of Isles, Sean brings extensive experience in public policy, law, and real estate development. He previously served as State Director for U.S. Senator Bob Torricelli before transitioning to the private sector as Sr. Vice President of Rosemont Associates, a government relations consulting and real estate development firm. There, in addition to serving as a consultant for dozens of New Jersey firms, Sean developed and managed more than 70k sq ft of commercial development, most of which is located in Trenton.  Sean joined Isles’ Board of Trustees in 2013, later becoming its Real Estate Committee Chair. He also served as Chair of the Pipeline Committee, where he helped develop and evaluate Isles’ services.

In early 2019, Sean stepped off Isles’ Board of Trustees to manage the Social Profit Center at Mill One, a 75k sq ft conversion of a formerly vacant historic mill into office, studio, and flex space.  The Social Profit Center will house charities (including Isles’ headquarters), other social profit organizations and artists under one roof, bringing shared services and a regional hub to improve the capacity of organizations across the region.

“Marty has built an innovative, barrier-breaking organization aimed at family self-reliance and community health, and I am honored to carry that legacy into this new, exciting chapter as Isles’ next Chief Executive Officer,” says Sean Jackson. “Our community, and indeed our country,  face awesome challenges that require innovative, disciplined solutions. Isles management team is talented, experienced, and resourceful.  I’m excited to work with them to meet these challenges in the months and years ahead.”

“Sean is the right person to lead Isles in this moment,” says Founder Marty Johnson. “We have learned a lot over the years, and Sean has been alongside us.  He is well versed in shaping public policy, launching the Social Profit Center, expanding our lead poisoning prevention work, and grounding our green energy work to jobs and development.  These are exciting times for Isles, full of potential.  I’m proud to have spent my adult life helping build it.”

Marty, who had been working as a part-time CEO/President while teaching Social Entrepreneurship at Princeton University and Lafayette College, will stay on in a part-time capacity  to work closely with Sean and Chief Operating Officer John Hart to support the transition. 

“As COO, John is key to this transition, managing Isles’ operations for over 6 years, building partnerships and bringing a social and racial justice lens to our work,” says Marty. “He and Sean are a powerful team, committed to Isles’ systemic change agenda.”

“I look forward to working closely with Sean to advance our unusual work,” says John Hart, who had previously served in senior roles in NJ government and regional nonprofits. “Sean has been a force as a trustee and colleague at Isles.  He is a coalition builder, vital to our policy and legislative work. He’s developed strong ties in Trenton and statewide and understands the on-the-ground challenges and opportunities in the Trenton region.”  

The Isles Board of Trustees created a subcommittee to lead the year long search process, which involved reviewing numerous candidates and comprehensive interviews with a select few.   

“After 40 years, we are replacing a founder – not an easy task!” says Willard Stanback, Search Committee Member and Vice Chair of Isles’ Board of Trustees.  “Concluding our broad effort, we are proud to select, as our next leader, someone who knows Isles very well – Sean Jackson.  It is truly promising to have Sean – who was a former board member with me and more recently has been a consultant supporting Isles – bring to this new role his array of skills and depth of knowledge about the organization, obtained through experiences in his prior roles.  We look forward to helping him lead Isles into its next era.”

A Message from Isles’ Leadership

Dear Friend, 

Like many, we’re grappling to understand and respond to the chaos and disorganization around us—the senseless killing of George Floyd and so many others, police/protester violence, and unequal impacts of COVID-19. Here in Trenton, murders and gun-violence have spiked over the past few weeks, and yesterday, a twelve-year-old girl was shot next door to our Wood Street offices.  

Threats are both immediate and systemic. From our educational system to business disinvestment to few supermarkets to pervasive lead poisoning in homes, brown and black families bear the proverbial, and real, boots on the throat. By the way, life expectancy in Trenton is 12 years less than 8 miles up the road in Princeton Junction.

Yet people remain resilient and capable. Isles’ work is rooted in an anti-racist belief that, if given the right tools and resources (like those the middle class takes for granted), families and communities can determine their own futures. We focus on a longer-term prize—family self-reliance and healthy communities, so we help residents care for themselves by growing food, educating young people, buying a home, training for future-focused green jobs and getting toxins out of communities. 

Despite these efforts, much more is needed. In addition to the above, we are rolling up our sleeves and sewing masks, creating at-home grow kits, delivering food and supplies to families in need, and learning new online skills, like teaching high school students, job training and financial services.

We started to work specifically on youth anti-violence 5 years ago, and we developed a Leadership Academy to foster youth non-violence. Today, we build safe parks, gardens, homes and public interest centers. Recreation services for kids connect them to fun and each other. On a larger policy stage, Isles collaborates with the NJ Attorney General’s office, local police, and other nonprofits to expand youth recreational programs and support services, improve community policing efforts, and support safer streets. 

Obviously, this is not enough. We continue to explore and push new ways to counter violence and build accountable policing. We’re supporting the creation of a ‘Use of Force’ database and advocating for standardizing use of force policies and reinvigorating citizen police boards. We’re implementing an anti-violence plan we helped develop with the Capital City Youth Violence Coalition.

We hear lots of voices rising up against the pain—a good and necessary start. But we urge real action, remaining hopeful that thoughtful steps can continue to move us towards a longer-term goal of fair, just, and sustainable communities—where all can thrive. 

In community, 

Isles Leadership Team

Isles’ Day of Giving: Now and for the Future

Join us on Tuesday, June 16th for a one-day, virtual fundraising event to support fostering self-reliant families and healthy, sustainable communities!

Watch videos from Isles staff, volunteers, and customers on our Facebook page that share inside looks into our work and its impact in the region – now and for the future. We’re also raffling off one-of-a-kind giveaway packages.

Click here for full event details.

COVID-19 Resources

Isles offices are currently closed to the public. Staff are working remotely and are available to assist you in a variety of areas. See below, as well as our Isles’ Pandemic Response page, for resources and additional information regarding how Isles is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Emergency Food Access

Isles, in partnership with Trenton Health Team, is maintaining a map of food distribution sites, updated daily. Click here to the view the map

Financial Solutions and Housing Counseling

In this rapidly evolving situation, even in households where finances are not typically a cause for concern, individuals may soon find themselves unable to pay their bills and/or meet basic expenses. For information on financial assistance, bill payment relief and COVID-19 scams, click here

Isles continues to serve our Isles Financial Solutions and housing counseling customers via virtual and telephone meetings.

Urban Agriculture

In times of economic instability and supply chain disruptions, having the capacity to grow your own food is a critical skill. Isles is working with our plant & seed suppliers to ensure that we have resources to distribute to our network of school & community gardens. In addition, we are working to make upcoming trainings available virtually. Email urbanag@isles.org to be added to our email distribution list for upcoming webinars.

Healthy Homes

Click here to view Isles’ quick start cleaning guide for best practices in regard to cleaning for COVID-19 while maintaining a chemical-safe home.

For additional resources on maintaining a healthy home see the links below from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

An important update from the FDA regarding hand sanitizers: they have seen an increase in products labeled to contain ethanol, but have tested positive for toxic levels of methanol contamination. Methanol, or wood alcohol, is a substance that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or ingested and can be life-threatening when ingested. Check the labels of your hand sanitizers against the FDA’s product list here: https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-updates-hand-sanitizers-methanol#products

Isles Youth Institute

Our current student cohort has transitioned to an online learning environment. If you or someone you know is looking to earn their GED, contact kshort@isles.org for more information about future enrollment.

Social Profit Center

While Isles’ Social Profit Center is currently closed to the public, our virtual leasing offices are open and available to discuss leasing options that can begin as early as June 2020. Email lease@socialprofitcenter.org for more information.

For general information about COVID-19, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/

COVID-19 Update

ISLES STATEMENT REGARDING COVID-19


In Effect – Wednesday, March 17, 2020

Dear Isles staff, customers, community partners, neighbors and supporters,

The well-being of everyone in our community is our top priority.  We want to protect our community’s health and safety by following the advisement of leaders in the public sector and the CDC and have decided to close Isles’ main offices- 10 Wood Street and 33 Tucker Street-  until March 31st. At that time, we will reassess as to when we will re-open our offices.

The majority of Isles staff will work remotely during this time period.  A “skeleton crew” of staff whose work has little or no interaction with the public and/or does not put them at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 may continue to work on site as needed.

It is our hope that through this social distancing we can continue to meet our mission to foster self-reliant families and healthy, sustainable communities while helping our staff avoid the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Thank you for your support during these unprecedented times.  We hope you all stay safe, and look forward to seeing you again soon.

A Solution Towards Saving

Isles Financial Solutions is a customer-centered financial capability service that supports improved financial knowledge and the ability to put that knowledge into everyday practice.  The key element is the on-going direction and support from a financial coach, who helps the customer build skills and keeps them motivated and focused on their goals. 
 
“Gail” was in the process of getting ready to buy a house, but as with most customers she needed to work on improving her credit score and to take care of some debts.  So Gail worked with her IFS counselor to create a savings and spending plan so that she could start paying down her debt and begin to understand her personal spending habits.
 
A year later, Gail had significantly improved her credit score and took care of her outstanding debt.  There was one more thing that was bothering her, the interest for her car payment.  Because of Isles’ relationship with the Princeton Credit Union, her coach suggested she reach out to them.  However, Gail had found another offer through a well-known personal finance company’s website.  Seizing this “teachable moment,” we asked her to look deeper into both offers.  Once she got past the advertising for the supposed “better deal,” she discovered that the offer from the credit union was much better.  Through that re-financing she was able to lower her interest rate from 18.99% to 8.99% and reduced her payment length from 42 to 36 months, which altogether saved her $2,028.96.
 
In addition, she raised her credit score to 640 and is in the process of qualifying for a CRA loan at a excellent interest rate, thanks to her efforts.  We are pleased to see Gail on her path to financial self-reliance.