May 2015

islesWorks in May



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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May is almost over and it's tempting to highlight the 60+ gardens, real estate construction, the busy-ness of the season, etc. 


However, doing good work is important, and as we say around here, the "magic" is in the learning (and increasingly in the teaching). As we learn by doing, we then must share that with others. For example, our innovative work on child lead poisoning has positioned Isles to show what we've learned, and impact public policy. With our work in the THDC neighborhood in the North and West Wards of Trenton, we are supporting other important groups, like the Urban Mental Health Alliance. 


Finally, we celebrate another elder and mentor who has passed away - Louise Rolling. How lucky we are to stand on the shoulders of such good friends who make this work possible!



With gratitude and in community,


Marty Johnson 
Tribute: Louise Rolling

On April 19, an inspiring leader and friend, Louise Rolling, passed away. We shared these words at her service:

Louise and James Rolling came by our office in 1990, under the guise of wanting to create a community garden on Dunham Street. What they really wanted, however, was something far more audacious - the cleanup of the contaminated old Magic Marker building.


At first, we thought it would take too long -over 10 years - to accomplish that. How frustrating would it be for the civic group to spend that much time on such a complex process? Where would the millions of dollars come from? Louise and James were so thoughtful, so connected to their community, and so persistent, that we agreed to join forces with them. And what an honor it was to work alongside them, and eventually, to succeed with them on many fronts.


Louise was the quiet, but fiercely determined half of the Rolling team. We will miss her dearly and we will always be grateful for her leadership, friendship, and love


Isles Engages in Lead's Long-Running War on Children

Lead is winning, but the game is afoot. Each year, approximately 6,600 children in New Jersey are poisoned due to lead exposure. Lead in the paint, dust, and soil continues to affect mostly low-income children, causing permanent neurological damage that lowers IQ levels, negatively affects academic performance, and increases behavior issues. Lead-poisoned children are seven times more likely to drop out of school and six times more likely to become involved in the juvenile justice system. The real ripple effects of lead's impact are just starting to be understood, and conservative estimates of the cost to society of one lead poisoned child is $32,000 per year. 

Since 2003, Isles has sought to both know the real burden of lead on Trenton, and find low-cost ways to prevent it. By testing over 2000 homes for lead, Isles compiled the first map of the lead crisis. More than 60% of the homes we've tested have lead levels in the dust of the homes that exceed basic health standards. Statewide, nearly 1 in 6 children enter kindergarten in the high risk cities with exposure to harmful levels of lead, limiting their potential to learn and succeed.

Isles is responding to this challenge in two ways. First, we retrofit homes to make them lead safe, energy efficient and healthy. We also educate residents about other health hazards such as asthma triggers, carbon monoxide, and fire hazards. Second, we use our experience on the ground to help others, including the government, improve their policies. This includes restoring the Lead Hazard Control Assistance Fund, along with a bill to require all children entering kindergarten to present a lead test to their school at enrollment, just like a vaccination record. High blood lead levels would then trigger the health department, building inspectors and school officials to develop support plans for lead poisoned children. 

While the country as a whole has impressively reduced lead in our overall bloodstreams, the real danger today is in our older neighborhoods and communities that can't afford the burden. And the cost of our current folly is very high. For every dollar spent on reducing lead hazards, $17-$221 would be returned in health benefits, increased IQ, higher lifetime earnings, tax revenue, reduced spending on special education, and reduced criminal activity. We can't afford not to make this investment for so many reasons.   

Grantee Spotlight: The Urban 
Mental Health Alliance (UMHA)

Kimme Carlos, founder of the Urban Mental Health Alliance
As the unrest in Baltimore and beyond attests, basic attention to mental health is critical, but often left unaddressed. Because of stigma, ignorance of ways to find help, and inability to advocate for themselves, this challenge often stays int he shadows. Kimme Carlos, founder of the Urban Mental Health Alliance (UMHA), has experienced this sort of disempowerment firsthand, and founded the fledgling nonprofit in 2014, to counter the silence.

After being rejected by traditional funders, UMHA received one of the first grants in the THDC Small Grants pilot round last fall. The $500 enabled UMHA to create print materials and a website, and to hold three workshops to educate residents on subjects from positive mental health habits to what to say on a 911, call if the need arises. 

UHMA will receive a second Small Grant this spring, to support a one-day conference to broaden awareness of mental health in the THDC community.  "Positive mental health awareness helps to remove fear, misconceptions and stigma, and strengthens our families and neighborhoods," explains Ms. Carlos. "UMHA is proud to serve Trenton and looks forward to continued growth and partnerships across the city."


Isles, Inc.
10 Wood Street
Trenton, New Jersey 08618