The Princeton Area Community Foundation has awarded $545,000 in Greater Mercer Grants to 20 nonprofits that provide vital services in our region.

The Greater Mercer Grants program awards grants to nonprofits that work with low-income residents and communities. In this grant cycle about 75% of the nonprofits run programs that benefit children.

“There are tens of thousands of children in need in our region, and through our Greater Mercer Grants program, we are working to alleviate child poverty,” said Carol P. Herring, the Chair of the Community Foundation’s Board of Trustees. “We are grateful for the support we receive from our generous community, which allows us to do this work.”

Consider these numbers:

  • About 1,500 area children pass through the foster system each year because of abuse, neglect or abandonment.
  • In Mercer County, 1 out of 5 children likely began his or her first day of school on an empty stomach.

“The nonprofits that receive our Greater Mercer Grants are helping these youngsters, as well as hundreds of other children and families in our region,” said Jeffrey M. Vega, President & CEO of the Community Foundation. “We are proud to support these organizations through our grants program.”

Among those agencies are the local Court Appointed Special Advocates office (CASA), which helps foster children navigate the legal system, and the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, which runs a program that provides weekend meals to students who might otherwise go hungry.

“There are many families in Mercer County who are struggling to put food on the table and many children rely on meals served in school as a primary source of nutrition,” said Jaime Parker, Manager of Programs at TASK. “The Send Hunger Packing program partners with local schools to make sure these kids are getting meals over the weekend. We sincerely appreciate support from The Community Foundation to help provide this most basic need to our most vulnerable neighbors.”

Mercer County ranks 14th in the state (out of 21 counties) for child well-being and about 17 percent of local children live in poverty, according to the New Jersey Kids Count 2016 report. This year, the Community Foundation will use the bulk of its Greater Mercer Grants funding to support organizations that serve children and adolescents living in poverty. New grant guidelines will be released later this year.

In 2016, 42 nonprofits received $1.09 million in Greater Mercer Grants from the Community Foundation.

In this half-year grant cycle, a total of 53 agencies applied for grants, requesting almost $1.3 million in funding. In addition to the 20 that were awarded Greater Mercer Grants, another eight nonprofits in that applicant pool received funding from the George H. and Estelle M. Sands Foundation.

“As a member of the Community Foundation’s Grants & Programs Committee, I knew those eight nonprofits had been vetted by Community Foundation staff, and those agencies met the rigorous standards required to qualify for Community Foundation funding,” said Betsy Sands. “But, I also knew the Greater Mercer Grants program could not fund all eligible applicants, so the Sands Foundation offered to work with the Community Foundation to provide an additional $217,000 in grants.”

“We’d like to express our gratitude to the Sands Foundation for their generosity and their willingness to partnering with us,” said Eleanor Horne, the Chair of the Community Foundation’s Grants & Programs Committee. “We are fostering more partnerships with donors and private foundations as we embark on our goal to alleviate child poverty in our region.”

List of Greater Mercer Grantees

Program support:

  • CASA of Mercer and Burlington Counties Mercer County Child Advocacy Program $25,000 – Judges appoint CASA volunteers to advocate for the most serious cases of abused and neglected children. Volunteers remain assigned to each case until it is closed and the child is placed in permanent housing.
  • Family Guidance Center Children’s Day Treatment Program $20,000 – Low-income, at-risk children, who have a diagnosable mental health disorder, receive intense mental health treatment and support services through this after-school program. During the summer, the program operates as a camp.
  • Kidsbridge Bullying Prevention & Diversity Appreciation Mobile Outreach Program for At-Risk Youth, $20,000 – Through a new Mobile Outreach Program, Kidsbridge staff will present a bullying prevention and diversity appreciation program to students in grades three through six in Trenton, Hamilton and Ewing.
  • Literacy New Jersey Read to Succeed $10,000 – The organization will provide free, basic literacy tutoring to about 100 adults in Mercer County. Some 17 percent of New Jersey residents struggle with literacy. Many cannot fill out job applications, help their children with homework or read the instructions on a medicine bottle.
  • Mount Carmel Guild of Trenton Emergency Assistance – Food Pantry $25,000 – The nonprofit provides a three- to five-day supply of nutritious food to those in need. In 2015, the Guild distributed more than 20,000 food bags.
  • National Junior Tennis & Learning of Trenton Arthur Ashe Student Athlete Program $15,000 – Low-income children in grades 3-12 from Trenton, Hamilton, Ewing and Lawrence receive year-round advanced tennis training, as well as structured academic enrichment, mentoring, college preparation and job training. In the last four years, program graduates have been awarded more than $400,000 in scholarships.
  • People & Stories/Gente y Cuentos: Reading Deeply in Community $20,000 – About 140 low-income, underserved adults and youth, including 60 who speak Spanish, will read, analyze and discuss complex literature through the lens of their own life stories.
  • Planned Parenthood of Central and Greater Northern New Jersey Responsible Choices $20,000 – The program aims to reduce unintended adolescent pregnancy and prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections by providing age-appropriate, medically-accurate, evidence-based comprehensive sexual health education through partnerships with local schools and community-based organizations.
  • Princeton Human Services Commission Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) $20,000 – Low- and moderate-income Princeton residents or Princeton High School students, ages 14- to 17-years-old, receive job opportunities, attend job-readiness and educational workshops and connect with positive adult role models. They also receive job coaching, and lessons about financial literacy and goal setting.
  • Trenton Area Soup Kitchen Send Hunger Packing Program $25,000 – More than 600 children, ages 5- to 18-years-old, enrolled in 15 schools in Trenton, Ewing, Hamilton, Hopewell and Lawrence receive supplemental weekend meals. TASK partners with Mercer Street Friends to deliver packs that children can slip into their backpacks every Friday. During the last fiscal year, the program distributed more than 60,000 meals.
  • UrbanPromise Trenton AfterSchool StreetLeader Program $25,000 – About 25 at-risk Trenton youth get meaningful jobs and training, along with academic assistance, college preparation, leadership training, and life skills development. The StreetLeaders provide support and mentoring to younger students participating in Urban Promise’s After School and Summer Camp programs.

Building Strong Communities

These grants are awarded to nonprofits working to enhance communities by addressing a problem, strengthening networks, or taking advantage of a shared opportunity.

  • Passage Theatre Company Building Community Project $50,000 – The grant will be used to help support the project’s key activities, including mainstage and educational programming, a middle school touring performance of stories from Mercer County Holocaust survivors, and a new collaboration with Trenton’s Christina Seix Academy.
  • VolunteerConnect Enhancing the Capacity of Community Organizations $25,000  – The nonprofit runs a board training program to help develop more effective nonprofit boards, provides skills-based volunteers to get critical strategic projects completed, and offers educational forums for leaders.

General Operating Support

The Community Foundation is among the few foundations in the area that awards funding earmarked for operating support, which provides nonprofits with funds needed to pay expenses, such as rent and utility bills. Operating support also allows those agencies to build and strengthen their capacity to serve those in need. Seven organizations received funding for general operating support:

  • Boys & Girls Clubs of Mercer County $25,000 – About 2,600 students, ages 5- to 18-years-old, participate in educational, enrichment and career-preparation programs after-school, on weekends and over the summer.
  • Greater Trenton $45,000 – The agency is working to advance economic development and revitalization projects in Trenton, with an emphasis on the downtown area.
  • HomeFront $45,000 – The organization’s mission is to address the needs of the homeless, through various programs, including its family preservation center, transitional housing and permanent, affordable rental units for working, low-income families.
  • PEI Kids $25,000 – More than 12,000 children and their families are served annually by the nonprofit, which provides programming on issues including child assault, sexual abuse, bullying, gang culture and online threats.
  • Trenton Children’s Chorus $20,000 – More than 170 children attending schools in the region in grades K-12 receive vocal training, drumming and piano instruction, as well as intense academic support.
  • Womanspace $40,000 – The nonprofit serves victims of domestic violence, human trafficking and sexual assault. Its programs include a hotline, counseling and support services, emergency shelter and transitional housing.
  • YMCA of Trenton $45,000 – The nonprofit provides a variety of services for the community, including health screenings, healthy living classes, after-school activities, parental engagement programs and quality of life programs for seniors.

 The Princeton Area Community Foundation promotes philanthropy and builds community across Mercer County and central New Jersey. It helps people and companies make effective charitable gifts and awards grants to nonprofits. Since its founding in 1991, the Community Foundation has grown into an organization with more than $140 million in assets and made grants of more than $95 million, including nearly $16 million in 2016.