— by Michelle Cash
VP, Grants & Programs[/push]

Just a week ago, a longtime friend and community partner, The Crisis Ministry of Princeton and Trenton, suffered a fire that destroyed their food pantry, including costly refrigeration equipment and substantial stocks of food. The smoke and sprinkler system also rendered their offices next door uninhabitable, at least temporarily. A crisis of these proportions, at an organization that addresses urgent needs each and every day, truly tests the mettle of a community.

The response has been nothing short of incredible. An entire system was affected by the fire — a web of organizations that work closely together to feed our hungry residents. Mercer Street Friends Food Bank, which stocks most of the pantries in our area, has stepped up to help replace the lost food. Other programs, from Mt. Carmel Guild to the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, have adeptly managed increased demands for their services. Numerous congregations have mobilized to contribute funds, food, and support, including Bethany Presbyterian, Nassau Presbyterian, Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville, and the First Presbyterian Church of Trenton. Meanwhile, nonprofit colleagues such as the Rescue Mission have made donations and sounded the call for help. Finally, and critically, our local media responded right away with visible, passionate coverage that has spurred our community to help.

Community Foundation donors and fund advisors have asked us how they can help. To everyone we say – whenever possible, give cash donations rather than donating items. Through bulk buying and purchasing agreements, food providers have buying power that can magnify the impact of every dollar given. While donations of food help, they require staff to sort and stack the items and gas to transport them to the pantry. Every item has to be evaluated for freshness and nutritional quality. As you think about your year-end giving, please consider a cash donation to any one of the organizations in our community that meet the basic needs of our poorest neighbors. They are all feeling the effects of this tragedy, and of the ongoing recession that has already stretched their capacity.

The Community Foundation is responding as well, bringing our effort and expertise to bear. The Crisis Ministry is a recipient of a $25,000 Fall 2011 Greater Mercer Grant for operating support, which they can use wherever they need it most. We are also working behind the scenes and have assured them that we will help further as they emerge from the immediacy of the fire to work on their long-term recovery. As the Crisis Ministry and its many colleague organizations take on the challenge of rebuilding the food safety net, we plan to be there to help them make sure it gets better and stronger in the process.


News coverage of the fire:

Other Links: