On Friday, September 29th, regional leaders and supporters of Mercer Street Friends gathered at B.C. Gregory Elementary School to celebrate the opening of the all-new Family Resource Center. This center will offer families a one-stop shop for several critical resources, including an in-school food pantry, monthly fresh food/produce opportunities, emergency food assistance, whole-family case management, community-based referrals and follow-up support, and family workshops and classes. With all services housed in the school, the center will offer families a confidential, reliable means of accessing critical services.
The Family Resource Center at B.C. Gregory Elementary School is the first of three centers to be launched this school year by Mercer Street Friends. Later in the year, Trenton families can look forward to centers opening at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School and Luis Muñoz-Rivera Elementary School. These Family Resource Centers are a powerful deterrent to hunger and a harbor of hope for our community’s children and families.
“Every rainy day should be as bright as today at Gregory.” Bernadette Trapp, Director of Community Schools at Mercer Street Friends, addressed a crowd of supporters, including Reed Gusciora, Mayor of the City of Trenton, and Teska Frisby, West Ward Councilwoman, City Council President, “We created a model for a family resource center school-based pantry to be implemented in all three of our community schools based on a proven national model. Today, we begin at Gregory. We will provide convenient access to food and services critical to a family’s well-being.”
Mercer Street Friends CEO Bernie Flynn remarked on the milestone’s significance, “Today is the best evidence of a community school strategy. The resources we provide are not only available to students, but they are also available to their families – and ultimately to the community surrounding Gregory.”
Flynn thanked Gregory School Principal Jeanette Harris, “Today is possible because of our partnership. We could not do what we do without the vision, innovation, and support of Principal Harris and the incredible staff here at Gregory.”
Principal Harris expressed her gratitude for the “outstanding accomplishment” of having a food pantry and a full-service resource center onsite for school families. With the closest supermarket nearly 2 miles away, accessing food is difficult for families without a car. “This family resource center is an amazing effort to meet a need.”
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Channing Conway reflected on the trajectory of the district’s partnership with Mercer Street Friends since 2015, “It’s been eight years of work and commitment, and we appreciate everything [they] have done for our school community. We hope to expand this initiative to even more schools.”
Councilwoman Frisby lives four blocks from Gregory School. She recognized the significant impact the family resource center will have on families. “The quality of services provided by Mercer Street Friends,” coupled with “respecting their privacy and dignity, will go a long way in building trust and relationships.”
Mayor Gusciora congratulated Mercer Street Friends and Principal Harris, “This fulfills the proverb it takes a village to raise a child. [It] is a true recognition of how important nutritional learning is to a child’s development.”
In addition to the food pantry, families visiting the resource center will have access to many services, including assistance with SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps), housing, immigration, legal, parenting, adult education, and mental health. A separate center room will be a dedicated technology room with laptops, printers, fax machines, and office supplies provided by Mercer Street Friends. Families will have privacy for online appointments and interviews.
Beginning in Trenton’s West Ward and eventually expanding throughout the city, these Family Resource Centers fill an invaluable gap in providing our community’s families with the critical services and support they need. As we continue to fight for a more equitable Trenton for all, there is no doubt that this resource will ensure that our community’s families can remain happy, healthy, and well-nourished in the months and years to come. Congratulations to the Mercer Street Friends team; we cannot wait to see these transformative resources in action!
ABOUT MERCER STREET FRIENDS
As a Quaker-affiliated, nonsectarian 501(c)(3) organization, Mercer Street Friends is dedicated to nourishing minds and bodies, empowering families and communities by providing comprehensive programs to address poverty and the physical and emotional trauma it creates for children, families, and the community. Their work is focused on three critical areas: food, families, and education. To learn more about Mercer Street Friends, visit mercerstreetfriends.org.
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