Isles’ Pandemic Response

Take a look at just some of the ways our team is adapting our services and responding to community needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here for COVID-19 resources.  

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Basic Needs and Healthy Homes

Many of our students, families, and customers are struggling with basic needs during the pandemic. We launched a delivery service to provide:

  • Food from the Mercer Street Friends food bank
  • More than 1,000 home-made masks, made by our own staff and volunteers, including Social Profit Center tenants Inspired Threads
  • School supplies and activities for young children, provided in partnership with Princeton University
  • Healthy homes kits and related information, so customers can use safe, non-toxic cleaning methods to protect their families
  • Gardening kits from our Urban Ag. team which include basic planting supplies to foster sustainability

We’re also distributing home-made masks to local nonprofits, businesses, and restaurants in need of extra supplies.  Establishments in Trenton include; Starbucks, Big Easy, Ila Maes, Trenton City Pizzeria, and TASK. 


Healthy Homes Training

Isles’ Center for Energy and Environmental Training are adapting their in-person training courses into virtual classes wherever possible. Recently, they launched an online version of the Healthy Homes for Community Health Workers training course so that home visitors can learn the principles of keeping a home safe and healthy.  As one recent trainee said, “I loved being able to complete the requirements at my own pace. The syllabus was helpful to gauge time to complete assignments. The handouts/resources are excellent. Thank you!”


Gardening

Whether you are 8 or 80 years old, gardening has many benefits beyond fresh food– it’s great physical activity, a family bonding activity, “nature therapy” and an exercise in problem solving and learning through your successes and failures. 

This is a critical time for our urban agriculture team, as it is the launch of our gardening program, distribution of seedlings, and garden workshops. While we cancelled in-person group activities, we’ve found a growing demand for gardening opportunities, both as a useful activity during the stay home order as well as source of healthy, readily available food. Each year, the gardens in our network produce more than 20,000 lbs. of food, including hundreds of pounds that get donated to local food banks.

We’re working on systems to safely interact with our gardeners. Isles kicked off our gardening season by safely distributing over 100 lbs. of seeds, thousands of seedlings, and over 1,000 lbs. of fertilizer to our garden network members. We are also participating in the new “Cooperative Gardens” initiative to mobilize more people in growing food. We are creating more virtual content to educate and engage, including launching Google groups for gardeners to interact, share resources, and problem-solve for each other in the coming weeks.

And while we had to cancel our annual Horse Plow event, we still got the job done! Here’s a shot of the newly prepped Chestnut Avenue Garden ready for the upcoming growing season.

We also continued upkeep at our Tucker Street garden as well as planted new greenery at the corner of Perry and Stockton street.

 

We donated the first big harvest of the season–more than 50 pounds of greens and radishes–to the Mt. Carmel Guild food pantry. This provided hundreds of servings of organically grown, nutritious food to those in need, from our own Tucker St Garden.

Food Asset Mapping

Isles has collaborated with Trenton Health Team to create a map of available food pantries and meal services in Mercer County during the COVID-19 crisis.  View this interactive map to see all current resources.


Youth education

Isles Youth Institute’s remote learning program is underway. We’re staying connected with students through Isles-provided chromebooks, helping them stay on track to meet their educational goals. Many are food insecure, and we’re working to connect them with resources as well as offer trainings targeted at young people, so they can keep themselves and their families healthy.


Financial Services

For many of those we serve, the economic impacts of COVID-19 will be longer lasting and potentially more devastating than health impacts. Without the “safety net” that many middle and upper income families rely on, lower-wage workers began experiencing financial distress prior to their April 1st rent/mortgage payments.

Our financial counselors are responding to these needs by offering virtual/tele-meetings to help workers and families as they navigate their rapidly changing financial situation. We are also reaching out to former and inactive customers, those who have participated in housing workshops, and prior first-time homebuyers to offer our services and connect to available resources at no cost.

In fact, our team recently helped two customers close on new homes virtually during the shut down!  In one case, we helped  lower the customer’s monthly mortgage payment to $750–saving a total of $300 per month compared to her previous rent.

Other services included helping customers manage credit card debt and create savings plans.  Read a customer’s response after working with our team:

“I can’t thank you enough for all you did for us, not to mention the timing was perfect as little did we know a pandemic and recession was looming right around the corner! I’ve been following our plan exactly as it was laid out and so far so good! Instead of avoiding looking at our bank accounts and dreading it, I am now obsessed with keeping on track and look at all the figures twice a day to ensure we are where we should be.”


Social Profit Center

We’re getting creative! Isles’ Environmental Health Services Specialist Barbora Hroncova revealed her carpentry skills. She’s making tables for the Social Profit Center using reclaimed wood that was saved from the former Mill One floors. Interested in leasing opportunities? Check out our video walkthrough and email lease@socialprofitcenter.org to learn more.