Bridging opportunity gaps…helping families and communities make the journey out of poverty.

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REDUCING HUNGER

Mercer Street Friends leads the community response to hunger in Mercer County, providing food and linking prevention programs to children, adults and seniors who face hunger and food insecurity on a daily basis.

BREAKING THE CYCLE OF ABUSE AND NEGLECT

Mercer Street Friends works with fragile at-risk families, guiding and leading them toward a healthier, safer life and brighter future.

CLOSING EDUCATION DISPARITIES

Mercer Street Friends helps children, youth and adults overcome achievement gaps and barriers to school success and employment.



Latest News & Events
Stamp Out Hunger Success!

On Saturday evening, May 14,  over 30 volunteers arrived at the Mercer Street Friends Food Bank to unload food donations from the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive. Then trucks began to arrive with bags of donated food, which the volunteers unloaded and stacked in bins. A few hours later, the pallets were stacked with bins of food that will sorted for distribution to people who face food shortages throughout Mercer County.

The Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive is critical to food banks. The food arrives just before the end of the school year, when kids from low-income families who receive free or reduced meals at lunch during school find themselves at home over the summer with nothing in the house to eat. The donated food from this food drive goes a long way to meet the increased demand on food banks over the summer months.

Mercer Street Friends is grateful to everyone who donated food to the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive, to the volunteers who unloaded and stacked the donations, and to the National Association of Letter Carriers and the US Postal Service for their efforts to help alleviate hunger in communities across the nation.

The photo below was taken just after a rain shower on Saturday evening. Volunteers were waiting for the next truck to arrive with donated food and noticed that the rainbow seemed to end at the MSF Food Bank warehouse. One volunteer said that the pot of gold at this rainbow’s end was the food donated by a caring community.

MSF Food Bank Truck with Rainbow

Mercer Street Friends Food Bank is touched by a rainbow at Stamp Out Hunger 2016.

Luis Rivera Community School Ribbon Cutting
REPRESENTATIVE BONNIE WATSON-COLEMAN AND MAYOR ERIC JACKSON ATTEND RIBBON CUTTING CEREMONY AT RIVERA COMMUNITY MIDDLE SCHOOL

The Honorable Bonnie Watson-Coleman, Representative of the 12th Congressional District, was the Guest of Honor at the official ribbon cutting ceremony for Trenton’s first community school on Tuesday, February 16.  Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson attended the event as well, along with other elected officials from Mercer County and Trenton and representatives from the Trenton Public Schools.

Mercer Street Friends was recently awarded a five-year, $2.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to pilot a community school model at Luis Rivera Middle School, now officially known as the Luis Rivera Community Middle School.

The community school model expands the traditional concept of a school house and transforms the school into a place where the educational, as well the physical and emotional needs of the students and their families are addressed. This model also brings the assets of the community into the school, involving parents, teachers, students and community organizations equally. Community schools buzz with activities, providing support services for students and their families after school, on weekends and during the summer.

“Our schools should provide every resource to allow students to meet their potential,” said Congresswoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman.  “The community school model steps outside of the traditional classroom experience to give students access to counseling, to engage parents, and to offer after hours and weekend opportunities to ensure every student stays on the right track.”

The U.S. Department of Education Full Service Community Schools Implementation Grant is a highly competitive award which targets five core services: assistance to students who have been chronically absent, truant, suspended, or expelled; family engagement, including parent training and activities;  mental health services; mentoring and other youth development programs; and access to other community-based supports and services.

Dr. Shannon Mason, executive director of Mercer Street Friends, spent the past three years laying the ground work for the success of the Trenton Community Schools Initiative.  An advocate for strength-based integrative approaches to capacity building, Dr. Mason stated that, “One of the unique features of this approach is that we didn’t start off by simply asking ‘What is absent?’ We started by asking, ‘What is present?’ That always changes the conversation.”

Mercer Street Friends’ Director of Youth Services and Clinical Initiatives, Anniesha Walker, and her staff moved into the Rivera school at the beginning of the school year.  They are working with students, getting to know families, listening to and learning from all the school’s stakeholders.

“I’m thrilled to see this model start a pilot run in my District, and I look forward to the positive impact it’s sure to make in our community,” said Representative Watson-Coleman. “There is nothing more important to me than making sure that the next generation of young minds can reach the bright future that they deserve.”

Mercer Street Friends Receives $2.3 Federal Grant For Trenton Community Schools Initiative

By Cristina Rojas | For NJ.com
on November 10, 2015

TRENTON — Trenton’s Rivera Middle School will soon become a place that goes beyond textbooks to focus on the whole child, thanks to a new $2.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

The five-year grant will help the recipient Mercer Street Friends make Rivera a full-service community school for children and parents alike by moving a variety of resources into the school itself. The nonprofit will offer after-school programs, health screenings, family counseling and parent classes, among other things.

“It’s not just about instruction,” Mercer Street Friends executive director Shannon Mason said. “It’s how do we engage families, how do we address issues and concerns of the whole child in order to give them the greatest opportunity to be successful.”

A community school, she said, connects families whose problems might be crippling their children’s ability to learn with the social services they need.

“It frees up teachers to teach and students to learn because so much of what teachers have to do is really trying to complement or provide these auxiliary services that they’re not trained and/or don’t have time to provide,” she said.

The federal grant targets five core services: assistance to students who have been chronically absent, truant, suspended or expelled, family engagement, mental health services, mentoring and youth development programs and access to community-based support and services.

After hearing about the initiative from a supporter of Mercer Street Friends, the nonprofit spent the better part of the past three years laying the groundwork.

“We talked to people in the superintendent’s office, in the community, other social service providers just to get a sense from the community whether this was something that would be effective and whether they were willing to be a part of,” Mason said.

Rivera was chosen in large part because it had a principal — Bernadette Trapp — who was willing to work closely with them.

“It’s not just services being dropped into the school, but the school and organization working together,” Mason said.

Though the grant began on Oct. 1, Mercer Street Friends began familiarizing itself with the school last year. Now, four staff members and two interns work there full-time.

Licensed clinicians have begun providing individual and group counseling to both students and families. Over the last year, a vision screening was held and free glasses were given out, fresh produce was sent home and computers were distributed as part of its Trenton Digital Initiative.

A stress-reduction group for parents will also start up soon. Mason said that building parents’ involvement with the school and with their children’s education is critical.

“If we want our kids to be successful in school, we have to identify meaningful ways to engage their families, their parents,” she said.

Mason said the nonprofit plans to gradually roll out programs so they can see what’s working and what’s not.

“It’s a great opportunity for our community and organizations like Mercer Street Friends who are wrestling how to continue and increase our impact in challenging fiscal environments,” she said. “I see this as a way to pull together the strength of our community to have a positive impact on children and families.”

JW Middle School's Student Organizers of the Students Change Hunger Challenge recieve instructions on taking the perfect picture from Lt. Gov. Guadagno
MSF Food Bank Receives $25,000 Morgan Stanley Grant for Send Hunger Packing Program
Morgan Stanley Volunteers

A team of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management volunteers packing weekend meals for students in the Send Hunger Packing program. From left, Michelle Jackson, Ken Stewart, Karl Falkenstein and Lara Sheqoski.

Mercer Street Friends Food Bank today announced a $25,000 grant from Morgan Stanley to support Send Hunger Packing,
a child hunger initiative that helps to ensure students continue to receive nutritious food during school breaks.

The grant is part of Morgan Stanley’s long term commitment of more than $14 million to Feeding America and its network of 200 local food banks that distribute millions of meals every year to children and families across the United States.

“We are thrilled to receive this important grant from Morgan Stanley in support of our efforts to deliver more nutritious meals to children in Mercer County,” said Phyllis Stoolmacher, Acting Food Bank Director.  “Morgan Stanley and its employees provide vital support for Mercer Street Friends by generous contributions like this and volunteering.”

Mercer Street Friends’ Send Hunger Packing program puts nutritious food directly into the hands of children by providing meal packs that they take home on Friday afternoon. With this program, children who rely on free or reduced price school meals get the nutrition they need, even when they are not in school over weekends or long breaks.

 

 

Governor’s Cup Awarded to John Witherspoon Middle School & MSF Food Bank

JW Middle School's Student Organizers of the Students Change Hunger Challenge recieve instructions on taking the perfect picture from Lt. Gov. GuadagnoOn May 21st, Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno presented the Students Change Hunger Governor’s Cup Trophy to the students of John Witherspoon Middle School in a ceremony held at the Princeton High School Auditorium. The Governor’s Cup is awarded each year to the school that collects the most food and designs an exemplary campaign to educate and engage students and the community in the fight against hunger during the annual statewide Students Change Hunger Food Drive.

The entire student body of John Witherspoon Middle School attended the awards ceremony and cheered the students involved in the two extracurricular groups that managed the food drive at the school, Peer-to-Peer and DoSomething, as they accepted the Governor’s Cup.

Donations collected by John Witherspoon Middle School students—6,117 pounds of food and $2,405—were given to Mercer Street Friends Food Bank. In addition, as the “winning” food bank, Mercer Street Friends will receive a $5,000 donation from Stop & Shop.

NJ Lt. Governor Guadagno

New Jersey’s Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno Praises John Witherspoon School students for their passion and their commitment to helping others

Students Change Hunger Challenge Winners from John Witherspoon Middle School

John Witherspoon Middle School’s Student Organizers of the Students Change Hunger Challenge recieve instructions on taking the perfect picture from Lt. Gov. Guadagno

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos from the awards ceremony as John Witherspoon Middle School in Princeton wins Governor’s Cup for 2015 Students Change Hunger Competition

Posted by Mercer Street Friends on Tuesday, April 28, 2015