From cultivating citizens as “political navigators,” “citizen journalists,” and members of Trenton’s Ethics Board, Impact Trenton refocuses good government practices to include not only City Hall, but also the neighborhoods and organizations that serve the people of Trenton.

Since its launch in 2010, Impact Trenton, an initiative of the Citizens Campaign, has worked to bring Trenton stakeholders together to encourage a sustained dialogue about issues and problems facing the city.

Impact Trenton refocuses good government practices to include not only City Hall, but also the neighborhoods and organizations that serve the people of Trenton.

Impact Trenton refocuses good government practices to include not only City Hall, but also the neighborhoods and organizations that serve the people of Trenton.

From cultivating citizens as “political navigators,” “citizen journalists,” and members of Trenton’s Ethics Board, Impact Trenton refocuses good government practices to include not only City Hall, but also the neighborhoods and organizations that serve the people of Trenton.

“Impact Trenton exhibits a comprehensive approach to civic engagement that is essential in bettering Trenton’s neighborhoods,” said Nancy Kieling, president of the Princeton Area Community Foundation. “We see Impact Trenton as a central component to building a strong bridge to Trenton’s future by taking a sophisticated and effective approach to community collaboration that we are honored to support.”

Since 2012, the Community Foundation has supported Citizens’ Campaign’s work in Trenton through the Greater Mercer Grants and our emphasis on Building the Region’s Social Capital.

“We support building social capital because we believe that engaged citizens with strong civic networks can build up communities and solve all kinds of problems. When people are strongly connected to each other and their community, trust increases, barriers break down, and everyone has the opportunity to participate in public life,” Kieling said.

In April, Citizens Campaign, through its annual Citizen Leadership Awards, honored several citizen leaders in Trenton who embody this approach to citizen involvement.

One recipient, Rachel Cogsville, is a citizen leader from the Mercer Street Friends’ West Ward Alliance. With the help of The Citizens Campaign, government agencies, nonprofits and the SAGE Coalition, Cogsville converted a vacant lot into a community garden for everyone to enjoy and experience. Energized by her success, she went on to work with the Cadwalader Heights Civic Association to revitalize Carteret Avenue in the city’s West Ward by helping to acquire new streetlights, sidewalks and curbs. Through the neighborhood stabilization efforts of ISLES and City Works, Cogsville was then able to transform eight abandoned properties into 11 units for sale as private homes.

Francis Blanco and Pamela Sims Jones, both Trenton residents as well as Citizen Leadership Award recipients, are veritable powerhouses in Trenton. Blanco is a leader within the Latino community; Jones focuses her efforts in the West Ward. In conjunction with Impact Trenton, they are working together to build a diverse network of community leaders across the city.

Impact Trenton’s signature “Civic Engagement Happy Hour” keeps the momentum going, by making sure the city’s civic leaders are apprised of and up-to-date on the myriad community-based efforts Trenton-wide.

The initiative’s work with the African-American church community is critical to its overall engagement strategy. Last summer, the organization hosted a series of workshops with Lighthouse Outreach Ministries and Grace Baptist Church, resulting in the formation of the Youth Civic Engagement Group. The group is now developing a civics curriculum designed for after-school and mentoring programs citywide.

Impact Trenton’s involvement with the Latino community has also resulted in expanding civic engagement as well as addressing public safety. Planning for a community forum is currently underway, and is slated to involve collaborations with the Trenton Public Schools, Trenton Police Department, the PTA and Safe Routes to Schools.

“We are catalyzing the growth of a citizen-led center in Trenton,” said Citizens Campaign’s Heather Taylor. “We are committed to bringing Trenton stakeholders together to encourage a dialogue about issues and problems facing the city and how, working collaboratively, residents can address them.”