February 2021 Message

Dear Friend,
As a community development and environmental nonprofit, Isles focuses on both self-reliant people and healthy, sustainable places. That’s why we provide youth with education options, offer first time homebuyer workshops, as well as clean up homes to prevent childhood lead poisoning, build gardens, create green spaces, and so much more.
Today, as we ramp up efforts to tackle the existential threat of climate change, we must ensure that our urban areas are included as part of the solution. All too often, places like Trenton are left out of the conversation around electric vehicles, solar panels, or the green job economy. But cities will be the key to a sustainable future, and now is the time to invest in their success.
Isles’ decades of on-the-ground experience have prepared us well for this moment. To date, we have weatherized more than 1,000 homes, made nearly 500 lead-safe, and trained more than 3,800 adults in energy and environmental focused careers. We’ve taken what we learned through this experience and advocated for smarter, safer policies to ensure the health and sustainability of our communities.
To that end, I’m pleased to share exciting news! First, as you can read about in more detail below, Isles received funding in partnership with the City of Trenton to launch an electric vehicle transportation pilot! This pilot, which will include a carshare, rideshare, and shuttle service, will increase residents’ mobility and access to jobs, healthcare, and new opportunities while addressing public health challenges imposed by greenhouse gases and air pollution.
In addition, Isles has been invited to join the NJ Council on the Green Economy, where we’ll leverage our experience connecting those who have been left out of this economy in places like Trenton to future-focused green jobs. We look forward to continuing to develop economic and environmentally just solutions for places that need them the most.
So as you can see, February has been a busy month for Isles! We’re excited about the possibilities the future holds.
Thanks for being here for us – your support really matters.
In community,
Sean Jackson
Chief Executive Officer
Read more updates in our February newsletter

January 2021 Message

Dear Friend,
A lot of ideas here at Isles start with, “What if we could…?”
One important question for our energy and environmental health services was, “What if we could combine housing health assessments with lead remediation and energy efficiency? How would we do that?” 
The “why” is obvious, given the age and condition of Trenton housing. It’s some of the oldest in the State, and based on its age and the more than 3,000 lead paint tests Isles has performed in Trenton, at least 60% of those homes have lead based paint. Those home conditions lead to excessive rates of asthma, childhood lead poisoning and other health conditions.
The good news is that Isles recently re-acquired the weatherization program for Mercer County, so we can now apply our holistic approach to improving the living conditions of Trenton residents – tackling all the issues a home might have, be they lead, energy or health related.
This innovation, along with our novel approach to home environmental assessments in the face of COVID restrictions (detailed below), is a testament to how Isles staff innovates its way around challenges. I’m inspired daily by how our staff rises to every challenge. I hope you will be too.
In community,
Peter Rose
Managing Director, Community Enterprises
Read more updates in our January newsletter.

Isles’ Harvest Celebration 11.14.20

Join us on Saturday, November 14 at 6 pm for Isles’ virtual year-end event, the Harvest Celebration. Broadcast from the Social Profit Center at Mill One via Zoom, the Harvest Celebration will feature highlights of our work throughout the year, and a panel discussion in which new CEO Sean Jackson and Founder Marty Johnson answer your questions about our past, present, and future. For more information and to register online visit isles.org/harvestcelebration

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.