March 2015

islesWorks in March

Board of Trustees


Michele Minter 

Linda Revelle

Kathleen Fitzpatrick

Nora Brennan

Barbara Coe

Rachel Cogsville-Lattimer

Stuart Essig

Ian Goldstein

Robert Harris

Sean Jackson

Oye Olukotun

Sa Mut Scott

Thomas Sullivan

Tracey Syphax

Calvin Thomas

Rolando Torres


Thanks for your

service to Isles!


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On April 11th, Isles turns 34. Over those years, we've steadily built the capacity to foster sustainable development across the region.
But of course, we can't - and would never try - to do it alone. As our name suggests, Isles provides a range of help to local community-based groups (or "isles"). They are the glue that keeps development moving forward.

As a result, Isles is increasingly providing strategic grants to build the capacity of grassroots groups. This newsletter describes one of those efforts, with the Trenton Historic Development Collaborative.

Isles' 8th Annual Golf Outing takes place at the Cherry Valley Country Club on June 1. Join us if you can, or find other ways to get involved. We can't do this work without you!


In community,


Marty Johnson




Small Grants, Big Returns 

Isles works in collaboration with locally based groups, like the Trenton Historic Development Collaborative (THDC). Since 2006, residents and other stakeholders began a neighborhood planning process, creating a vision of a "safe, clean, enjoyable [and] empowering" community. That vision is now being carried out, with funding from New Jersey's Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit (NRTC) program. Projects range from physical rehabilitation to support for Mercer Street Friends' Parent-Child Center. Throughout the planning process, the stakeholders knew that small, grassroots organizations and community activists need support. Often, these community stalwarts cannot access traditional funding sources like foundation grants.

In the fall of 2014, Isles launched the THDC Small Grants Pilot to support this grassroots work and to build the capacity of smaller organizations. Working with I Am Trenton Community Foundation, a local nonprofit experienced in grant-making, ten grantees were selected in the pilot round for awards of $500 each.

The results are very strong. The grantees range from fledgling nonprofits to artists to a residents' association, and their projects build momentum for the rest of the work in the THDC plan. For example, one community priority was to connect youth with older residents, and, thus, their own history. Under the small grants pilot, Ms. Betty Lacy, a community historian with a collection of artifacts of African-American life, works with a group of junior curators from Daylight-Twilight High School to digitize her collection. 

Similarly, as Isles was completing a community-driven recreation plan for the neighborhood - whose projects will begin this spring - one of the pilot projects was activating the West End Avenue batting cage with a youth program. 

Projects also fill gaps: the Urban Mental Health Alliance (UMHA), a new nonprofit, has done a series of workshops to combat the stigma around mental health and addiction issues in the neighborhood. The THDC Small Grants Pilot was UMHA's first grant, and has strengthened the organization's capacity to apply for others.

A second round is underway, with winners to be announced in early May. While the challenges in the THDC neighborhood are significant, the energy, vision, and hard work of the pilot grantees demonstrate that just a few hundred dollars goes a very long way.

Meet Isles' Trustee Stuart Essig


Stuart M. Essig, Ph.D. joined Isles' Board of Trustees in 2012, and currently chairs the Resource Development Committee. Dr. Essig is Chairman of the Board of Directors of Integra LifeSciences Holding Corporation, a diversified medical technology company with staff employed around the world.  Integra, for which he was CEO from 1997 to 2011, is a manufacturer of neurosurgery, orthopedic implants, surgical instruments, and regenerative medicine products.  Dr. Essig has served on the boards of several publicly traded companies, private companies, and nonprofit organizations. He is currently on the board of St. Jude Medical Corporation.


Dr. Essig received an A.B. degree from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and an M.B.A. and a Ph.D. degree in Financial Economics from the University of Chicago, Graduate School of Business.  As a fellow Princeton alumnus, he has known Marty Johnson for many years and had been impressed with the impact Isles has on the region.  Isles' innovative and cost effective solutions to complex problems resonate with Dr. Essig's entrepreneurial background. 


While he was initially drawn to Isles by the comprehensive strategic approach the organization uses in addressing underlying causes to problems such as poverty, substandard housing, environmental and health hazards, Dr. Essig is compelled by the impact he has seen on the people and places Isles serves.  After meeting an Isles Youth Institute alumnus, who is now a Trenton homeowner, landlord, and Isles supporter, he saw first hand that Isles' services work.  According to Dr. Essig, "Marty invited me to join the board at the right time in my professional life and I was happy to be in a position to do so.  But meeting the young man who took advantage of the services Isles offered, worked hard to achieve his goals, and now commits to supporting Isles every month, really impressed me and inspires me to serve as a trustee."




10 Wood Street
Trenton, New Jersey 08618