Connecting Local Students with Their Neighbors in Need

A group of determined students from the Lawrenceville School wanted to help their neighbors in need. Hundreds of residents in the Trenton community were lining up weekly at Mercer Street Friends’ meal distribution program.

The President & CEO of the Princeton Area Community Foundation, along with a current and former member of the Board of Trustees connected those students with their neighbors in need. The Community Foundation is among the philanthropic leaders in Central New Jersey and works to connect donors to the causes that matter most to them.

Kylan Tatum is a student at the Lawrenceville School. Earlier this year, his classmate, Philip Han, reached out to him with an idea to raise money to buy masks for the community.

The pair, with help from about a dozen other students, created a Go Fund Me campaign to raise thousands of dollars through their school club, Pantect. They provided masks to the Trenton Office of Emergency Management, and two other independent schools on the East Coast.

But they figured a nonprofit in the Mercer County region might need them too.

So, Kylan’s mom, Lisa Skeete Tatum, reached out to the Community Foundation, where she had served as a trustee from 2013 to 2018.

Jeffrey M. Vega, Community Foundation President & CEO, quickly put Kylan and his mother in touch with Bernie Flynn, a Community Foundation Trustee since 2018, who began serving as the volunteer CEO of Mercer Street Friends in February. Flynn was thrilled with the idea.  “We are so grateful to Kylan, Philip and Pantect for their leadership and thoughtful action. They were very intentional with regard to ensuring that the distribution help mitigate institutionalized disparities in our community. The spirit of their undertaking is needed now more than ever.”

He quickly mobilized his staff, so they could include the 4,000 donated masks in the hundreds of weekend meal bags they hand out weekly to families in need in the community.

“We are so fortunate that a young man and his friends would think of us in this way,” said one of the recipients of the masks and meal bags.  Kylan said the pandemic has highlighted the lack of equal access to personal protective equipment.

“When the pandemic began, masks were difficult to obtain for everyone, but there has been an alarming correlation between access, socioeconomic status, and, in many areas, race,” said Kylan. “Pantect has been an amazing opportunity to not only lessen these temporary divides but also to raise awareness about the broader systemic issues that contribute to these disparities and inequities in the first place.”