In February 2020 the Board of Trustees of Mercer Street Friends announced that former NJM Insurance Group CEO Bernie Flynn was going to join them as the Chief Executive Officer of their 60+ year old community organization.They did so with great confidence that he would continue their extraordinary decades-old mission for nourishing minds and bodies while empowering families and communities.

A Powerful Legacy

It all started in 1958 when Mercer Street Friends was founded by a group of Quakers on the basic tenet that preserved and honored the concept of equality for all people while striving to achieve a just, prosperous, and peaceful society for all. At the time, the launch of the organization was specifically prompted by the decaying Trenton community and the group’s deep concern for the lack of opportunities for the city’s residents to live in a peaceful and prosperous manner.

The values of the founding volunteers remain solidly in place in 2020, with roots that stretch back to the opening of their first community center in a renovated a 100-year old Trenton meeting house. From that day on, Mercer Street Friends has responded to the needs of the community by building local alliances that address the complicated and multi-faceted issues inherent in a life of poverty.

To accomplish this they offer a range of integrated services and resources for children and families that create connectivity and a sense of community while nurturing self-worth and independence. They work to solve today’s most immediate problems in order to guarantee a sustainable, brighter future tomorrow.

A Commitment to Overcome the Lasting Effects of Poverty

The tone starts at the top in any organization and Mercer Street Friends is no exception. Led by a remarkable staff, the leadership team has a significant positive impact by improving, and permanently changing, lives in the community. The combination of CEO Bernie Flynn and all the Directors on staff along with Chair Joseph Hulihan and a board comprised of passionate trustees has created a potent force that adheres to a compelling message and leverages its influence to reinforce the dedication to accomplishing the mission and vision.

Sustaining a Fulfilling Lifestyle for All: An Integrated Mix of Services

In order to ensure that all people have the opportunity to pursue a satisfying and enjoyable life style, the organization provides a relevant combination of hands-on training, resources and support that tackles all the needs of families trying to achieve their dreams and rise above poverty.

  • Pre K, Elementary, and Middle Schools in Trenton

The hope for the future lies with today’s children. As such, Mercer Street Friends puts a strong emphasis on education, beginning with their youngest students.

This is why the Mercer Street Friends Preschool program works diligently to deliver a high-quality early childhood education, at little or no cost for children ages three to five who reside in Trenton. 

The facility houses six classrooms, each designed to encourage intellectual curiosity and a love of learning by highlighting key areas of interest such as library, discovery, music, art, dramatic play, and computers. By doing so, the teachers are able to create an innovative curriculum that emphasizes cognitive, social, and emotional growth in children in a safe, caring and nurturing environment.

Mercer Street Friends is also a Community School partner at Gregory Elementary School and Luis J. Rivera Community Middle School providing counseling services for students, attendance resources and academic supports, along with a free store and laundering capabilities at Rivera.These initiatives are designed to bring student and community resources into the schools in order to remove barriers to learning and support the entire family.

But hunger can impede learning. Nourishment for the body helps to sustain and feed a bright and inquisitive mind as well. That is why students receive nutritious meals as well as weekend meal packs through the Mercer Street Friends Send Hunger Packing program.

  • Workforce Career Center

 A solid early childhood education delivered today can help put tomorrow’s adults on the right path. But the teens, young adults and older adults who are struggling now also need a strong support system to thrive. That is where the organization’s workforce career center becomes essential.  The Mercer Street Friends’ Adult Education Program works with adult residents of New Jersey, ages 16 and older, who are looking to obtain some of the most basic milestones and skills to help them compete in the current job market:

      • A New Jersey high school diploma
      • Career guidance
      • Renewing math, reading and writing skills to prepare for entrance exams for career training/further education
  • Family Centered Activities

All generations from the youngest to the oldest require the support of Mercer Street Friends. Helping families is at the core of the organization’s mission. Families living in poverty can turn to the Mercer Street Friends Parent-Child Center which is designed to work with parents who live in the City of Trenton, (with primary, but not exclusive focus on the East and West Wards of the city), who are pregnant or have a child under five years of age.

The Center provides a range of services for this vulnerable population that include case management, emergency food/personal care items for enrolled families, free pregnancy testing, community service linkages, developmental screening for young children, stress management  workshops, screening and group support for pregnant/parent women at risk of postpartum depression, and parenting education groups.

It Starts with Basic Needs

Most importantly, the organization has an exceptional reputation as a food bank. In fact, their food distribution and hunger prevention programs reach over 30,000 people who face the pain and indignity of hunger.

Along with an education and exposure to positive role models that help grow strong minds, Mercer Street Friends adopts a holistic approach, making sure that no family goes hungry.They channel 4.5 million pounds of food and groceries annually to a network of 100 local food pantries, shelters, soup kitchens, meal sites, schools, senior and disabled programs, and low-income housing sites.

Mercer Street Friends believes that poverty is everyone’s problem and it is everyone’s responsibility to eradicate it.To learn more visit their website at mercerstreetfriends.org