When Eva Gilbert, a first-grade teacher and parent at Trenton’s Grant Elementary School, attended her first meeting focused on her East Trenton neighborhood in early spring, she took the opportunity to raise an important issue.
Her concern? Grant Elementary lacked air conditioners in most classrooms. With the summer session fast approaching, students and teachers would struggle in a less-than-ideal learning environment.
In attendance were newly elected Mayor Eric Jackson, Mercer County Freeholder Samuel Frisby and, fortunately, for Gilbert and Grant Elementary, Andy Carten, CityWorks director of project development. CityWorks serves as the convener and lead organization of the East Trenton Collaborative, a group of nonprofits and community development organizations.
“Coincidentally, the day before that meeting we did a bus tour with the Princeton Area Community Foundation,” Carten said. “They understood the scope of our work and more, they understand that sometimes you have to be nimble to address real-time challenges facing our communities.”
The Community Foundation has supported the ETC and its partner organizations through the years and, according to Michelle Cash, Community Foundation Vice President, Grants & Programs, here was another opportunity to step up. “We immediately looked to see what we could do,” Cash said. She had her answer within a week: the air conditioners were coming.
“We had five sponsors—a collaboration of five of our advised funds—and we were ready to get to work,” Cash said. “It was pretty inspiring, but also completely illustrative of how the Community Foundation works directly with its donors and grantees to address immediate needs.”
“The beauty of this collaboration is that we were able to think about other ways to handle otherwise problematic challenges for schools,” Carten added. “We were able to get six units delivered just in time for summer. This shows the benefit of partnership between the city’s board of education, the Princeton Area Community Foundation and the East Trenton Collaborative. The kids are really the ones who benefit,” he noted.
Eva Gilbert, for her part, said she’s pleased to leverage the existing collaboration between the ETC, the schools and the Community Foundation to find the solution. “We’re all a team and we’re so happy that everybody was able to work together and the folks at the Community Foundation were able to help get the money together and get the units,” Gilbert said. “It’s a success story.”