COVID – 19 UPDATES

Find agency updates, helpful blogs & articles, and other resources HERE

JFCS Pantry Welcomes Donations from Individual & Community Gardens

May 11, 2021

Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County (JFCS) is asking the community to help keep the agency pantry stocked with fresh produce throughout the spring and summer by harvesting from their very own gardens.

In years past, the JFCS pantry has been able to accept limited donations of fresh produce but now with the mobile food pantry going out 3-5 times per week, there is significantly increased demand for a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. The on-site food pantry also continues to see high use, with 80-100 visits per month.

“We always appreciate the donations from local individuals or even community gardens as it provides variety to the produce we usually offer,” said Beth Englezos, JFCS Manager of Hunger Prevention. “While we are able to store and distribute fresh and frozen produce from our regular food providers, there is something extra special about being able to give out locally grown, fresh from the garden items to our clients.”

JFCS is tying into the national Plant-a-Row initiative which encourages individuals to plant items in their personal or communal gardens for the specific purpose of harvesting to donate to local food pantries.

In addition to encouraging local gardeners to contribute to the food pantry, JFCS is also working to provide clients the tools to grow their own produce as well. Recently, the agency was able to provide tomato plant seedlings to clients. JFCS agency has a relationship with Abe’s Acres Farm, located in Hightstown, where agency staff bring specific cardboard waste – collected through regular, large-scale food deliveries to the pantry – to the farm which is turned into composting material. In early May, when dropping off cardboard, Abe’s Acres provided 200 tomato plant seedlings for JFCS to share with pantry clients.

Taryn Krietzman, RDN, JFCS Pantry Coordinator created easy to follow care instructions to provide along with the plant to pantry clients.

“Clients coming to our food pantry are food insecure and low-income. Growing one’s own produce is a simple way to get more food into the refrigerator and to save money,” says Krietzman.

Through an ongoing partnership with ONEProject, a Robbinsville-based organization, JFCS received a donation of 250 painted planters and cilantro seeds to provide our clients with additional resources.

“Food pantries are at the end of human-food production chain, making it difficult to acquire perishable foods such as fresh produce. By providing these resources directly to our clients, we can circumvent many of those challenges allow the client to have the freshest source of produce, right in their home,” added Krietzman.

If you have questions about donating from your personal or community garden, reach out to Taryn Krietzman at TarynK@jfcsonline.org. For those outside of the Mercer County region, individuals can utilize the pantry finder on AmpleHarvest.com to locate a local food pantry accepting donations from personal or community gardens.

Delivering Healing in a Whole New Way: Mobile Food Pantry Helps Pave Path for Vaccine Distribution to Vulnerable Populations

UPDATE: April 29, 2021

JFCS and RWJ Hamilton went out to a second location for their vaccine distribution partnership, this time at Paul Robeson Charter School in Trenton. The school’s Panther Pantry is a regular distribution stop for the JFCS Mobile Food Pantry and the established relationship between the agency and the school helped ensure a successful vaccine distribution.

The faculty was incredibly helpful at spreading the word to their school community as well as surrounding neighborhood. Over 40 individuals, representing parents of students and local community residents, received their first Moderna vaccine dose. JFCS and RWJ Hamilton will return to administer the second dose after the 4 week period.

“We were very proud to have been a part of this initiative with RWJ and help make the connections to neighborhoods that had been unable to easily access vaccines,” said Michelle Napell. “Overall, every individual who receives a vaccine benefits our entire community, and we are happy to have been able to help reach these groups.”

April 12, 2021

Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County (JFCS) partnered with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton (RWJ Hamilton) to bring vaccines directly into neighborhoods with the most vulnerable populations and fewest resources to access available vaccine options.

On March 19, The JFCS Mobile Food Pantry went out along with a RWJ Hamilton mobile vaccine team to Architects Housing in Trenton, a senior low-income housing apartment, for a pilot run of this new partnership where they provided the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine to 65 individuals. The joint team returned on April 9 to administer the second dose of the vaccine.

“As the vaccine started to roll out, I considered how we might be able to utilize our Mobile Food Pantry, which has built in refrigeration and freezer units, to help distribute the vaccine to individuals who were having trouble accessing available sites,” said Michelle Napell, JFCS Executive Director. “We approached RWJ Hamilton as we’ve partnered with them in the past for successful programs and knew they could be the resource for vaccine distributions.”

While RWJ Hamilton handles the transport of the vaccine by its own team, the JFCS Mobile Food Pantry has an important presence the day of vaccinations. The mobile pantry arrives along with the RWJ team and JFCS staff helped organize the vaccination process, assisted those receiving vaccines, and distributed breakfast bags to recipients.

“Architects Housing has become a regular distribution site for our mobile pantry,” says Beth Englezos, JFCS Manager of Hunger Prevention. “We first connected with their site in June 2020 and have since made monthly, sometimes even bi-monthly stops, as needed by their residents.”

“The presence of our mobile pantry, a trusted, welcome resource to the Architects Housing residents, was really important on the day of vaccinations,” added Napell. “We continue to see in the news how low-income populations, especially older adults, are hitting every obstacle to accessing vaccines – from not having internet access to sign up, to lacking transportation to vaccine sites, to being missed by communications coming from state and local levels about vaccine safety and availability. The presence of our pantry and our team, a familiar and reliable resource, helped make the vaccine experience as easy as possible for the recipients.”

JFCS and RWJ Hamilton are discussing other locations where they can replicate the vaccine and mobile pantry partnership at other locations.

“We have partnerships with many organizations, institutions, and housing developments that work with those who currently quality for vaccine but lack the resources to get connected with sites. We hope our connections can be an in-road to RWJ Hamilton reaching these individuals,” said Napell.

JFCS Annual Event Raises Almost $200K in Support of Food Relief, Mental Health Support & Senior Services

On March 25, Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County (JFCS) held their annual fundraiser virtually via Zoom. The event, Cheers to the Volunteers, welcomed 370 guests to participate in a virtual wine and gourmet coffee tasting while honoring JFCS volunteers who supported the agency’s pandemic relief efforts over the past year.

“We never imagined the level of positive response to our first ever virtual fundraiser,” said Michelle Napell, JFCS Executive Director.

The event, JFCS’ single largest annual fundraiser and significant source of unrestricted funds, raised over $197,000 through sponsorships, tickets sales and a live Text-to-Give appeal during the event.

“We asked our guests to help us raise $10,000 through Text-to-Give by the end of the event, and in 10 minutes we had raised almost $15,000,” says Napell. “It is incredible to see the generosity of our community especially in the face of unprecedented challenges that have come during the pandemic.”

Guests were able to join from anywhere and participants tuned in from across New Jersey as well as across the country, from California, to Florida, to Massachusetts and more. Attendees had been able to select their choice of beverage in advance – either wine or coffee. Beverages were shipped directly to their homes in advance of the event and each guest received a personal delivery of a swag bag, with branded items courtesy of sponsor support.

“Despite the very real presence of ‘Zoom fatigue’ in all of us, it was clear that the community continues to be ready to support JFCS and was seeking an evening centered around connections and celebrations – something we have all been in need of over the past year,” added Jennifer Agran, JFCS Board Vice President and Event Chair.

Funds raised from the event will support all agency programs, several of which have grown with demand due to the pandemic. JFCS maintains several food relief programs including an on-site food pantry, available 5 days/week, two Mobile Food Pantry vehicles that bring the pantry directly into areas of greater Mercer County with the greatest obstacles to accessing available resources, as well as meal and grocery delivery to homebound seniors.

Additionally, JFCS maintains a counseling department which is seeing rising demand as everyone navigates the next stage of the pandemic. JFCS also boasts a senior service department which maintains an aging-in-place membership program as well as geriatric care management available to the broader community. Seniors have continued to rely on the support of the JFCS senior service team throughout the past year for resources, information, and the comfort and understanding of our staff.

“Our agency has successfully navigated the past year of challenges thanks to the generosity of individual and corporate supporters; however, we have learned that to be prepared for anything, our agency needs to remain adaptable to any challenge, and to do so, we will continue to rely on the incredible support of this community. The success of this event helps us step into the months ahead knowing we can continue to meet the demand for our services,” said Napell.

See a full recap on our event website!

JFCS thanks all event sponsors including Presenting Sponsor: Personal Home Care of New Jersey. Champion Sponsors Abrams Foundation/Nati Kushner, Crook & Marker, Pat & Ray Schlaefer and Troutman Pepper; Patron Sponsors Access Property Management, Homewatch Caregivers and Roundview Capital; Partner Sponsors Bristol Myers Squibb, Callaway Henderson Sotheby’s International Realty, Matt & Holli Elias, Lennar, and James E. Schwalbe; and Supporter Sponsors First Bank, Martha Friedman & Harold Heft, Joel Heymsfeld, Gershen Group LLC, Hill Wallack LLP, Carol & Bob Lerner, Lois & Jeff Miller, Orland’s Ewing Memorial Chapel, Elaine & Barry Sussman, Szaferman Lakind, Stacey Wasserman & Ian Zimmerman and Audrey & Marc Wisotsky.

Service Opportunities this Month for Youth & Families

J-Serve: Day of Jewish Youth Service  **VIRTUAL SERVICE EVENT**

Sunday, April 11 on Zoom!

Grades 6 – 9 | 1:00 PM & Grades 10 – 12 | 2:00 PM

Volunteer. Serve the community. Help others. Get involved.

Connect with personal and local heritage with Project Roots. Help yourself and others by learning self-care techniques. Learn about making a difference.

Register in advance.

 

Spring Into Action

Sunday, April 18 @ 10:30 AM

707 Alexander Rd, Princeton, NJ 08540

Learn about hunger in Mercer County and how YOU can help others in need. You’re invited to this service event…bring an old t-shirt, scissors and a rule to upcycle a shirt into a reusable grocery bag.

Participants also encouraged to bring donation of paper goods or personal hygiene products.

SPACE IS LIMITED. MASK WEARING REQUIRED DURING EVENT (outdoors)

Rain date Sunday, April 25

Register in advance.

Jewish Family & Children’s Service Announces Mensch Award 2021

JFCS of Greater Mercer County announces the Rose & Louis H. Linowitz Mensch Award.  This is a merit-based award for deserving Jewish eighth-grade and high school senior students living in Greater Mercer County.  Candidates should exemplify what it means to be a mensch – a person of integrity and honor, a doer of good deeds, and an all-around good person.  Students must be nominated by a member of the community such as a Rabbi, educator, youth group advisor, secular school guidance counselor, teacher, parent, etc.  Eighth-grade Mensch-In-Training award is $300 and high school senior Mensch Award winners will receive $1,500.  This is not a need-based scholarship.

Applications are due by April 30, 2021.

8th Grade Application

12th Grade Application

Photo Release (Required for all applicants)

W-9 (Required for all applicants)

For more information or to nominate a student, contact Joyce at 609-987-8100 / JoyceW@JFCSonline.org.

Jewish Bereavement Virtual Support Group

Free, Six Week Group

Thursdays, March 4 – April 8 | 2:00 – 3:15 PM | Via Zoom

Following the death of a loved one, each of us moves in our own time and in our own way, through a process of grief, mourning and adjustment. But we do not have to grieve alone…

This is a weekly group in which members converse openly and support one another through the grief process. Open to any Jewish adult, regardless of affiliation, who has lost a loved one within the past 12 months.

Facilitated by Chaplain Beverly Rubman, MA

No fee to attend, registration required. To register, contact Beverly Rubman at beverlyr@jfcsonline.org / 609-987-8100 Ext 139.

Blast Hunger Series: Drive-By Breakfast Food Drive

You can help ensure our clients’ days start off on the right note by donating to our Breakfast Blitz Drive By Food Drive. Stop by to donate kosher breakfast foods and help families in need MIX UP their mornings.

Donations will benefit children of the JFCS food pantry and our partner agencies across Mercer County.

When? Thursday, February 25 & Friday, February 26 @ 10 AM – 12 PM

Where? JFCS Parking Lot 707 Alexander Road, Suite 102 Princeton NJ 08540

What? 

  • Cold Cereals
  • Oatmeal
  • Shelf Stable Milk
  • Pancake Mixes
  • Muffin Mixes
  • Breakfast Bars
  • Fruit Packed in Water

All items must be marked Kosher.

Can’t make the event? Purchase from your online store of choice & ship items directly to our offices!



Our thanks to Carli Masia, Blast Hunger Chair

Mobile Food Pantry Delivers on Promise of Help, Hope and Healing

Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County never anticipated just how vital mobility would become in the inaugural year of the Mobile Food Pantry. After one full year on the road, the mobile pantry has benefited 17,877 individuals across Mercer County through 140 distributions.

The mobile pantry program launched in late January 2020, with the first distributions made through February and early March. In mid-March, the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the community and JFCS pivoted plans in line with the changing needs.

“The world shifted, and we were ready,” says Michelle Napell, JFCS Executive Director. “When everyone was scrambling to keep their shelves stocked in the early days of the pandemic, and the most vulnerable populations – seniors, low-income communities – were hit even harder, our Mobile Food Pantry was there to fill a growing need.”

Planning for Everything, Then Pivoting for a Pandemic

The Mobile Food Pantry was designed to bring the choice experience of the JFCS on-site pantry on the road. However, during the pandemic, the process has been modified in line with health and safety regulations. Bags are pre-packed with non-perishable pantry staples as well as frozen and fresh meat, cheese and produce. JFCS mobile pantry staff work with each distribution partner to deliver the bags in a way that works best for their constituents – at some locations, clients pickup directly from the mobile pantry with organized waiting areas to maintain social distance, and other locations have the JFCS team drop off all bags to one designated site coordinator who handles distribution to the clients.

“While we have not been able to utilize the choice model of the pantry, we have worked to find ways to add extra value through our current delivery model,” says Taryn Krietzman, RDN, Pantry Coordinator. “Each month, I prepare a nutritious and simple recipe using pantry basics and seasonal fresh items we are able to include in the bags. Recently, we have also included information about where to find COVID-19 testing and vaccination information and sites.”

The world shifted, and we were ready…in the early days of the pandemic, and the most vulnerable populations – seniors, low-income communities – were hit even harder, our Mobile Food Pantry was there to fill a growing need.

Michelle Napell

Executive Director

It has been inspiring to grow this network of support with other agencies committed to our same goals of help, hope and healing.

Beth Englezos

Manager of Hunger Prevention

Growing a Network of Support Across Mercer County

Distribution partners for the mobile pantry range from churches, to low-income housing for seniors and families, to housing for adults with disabilities, to schools, to community organizations, with new partners being added each month.

“In the midst of such challenging times, it has been inspiring to grow this network of support with other agencies committed to our same goals of help, hope and healing,” said Beth Englezos, JFCS Manager of Hunger Prevention. “Through strong partnerships, we have been able to reach even more residents of Mercer County.”

The mobile pantry had a planned roll out of two distributions per week. When demand quickly spiked in the early stages of the pandemic, the distribution schedule ramped up to meet the needs.

“The speed at which the program grew was directly attributable to the immediate and severe impact of the pandemic on vulnerable communities,” said Englezos. “Our plan was to average two stops per week over the first year as we developed a network of partners and refined our process. We are regularly on the road 3 – 4 times each week, and our network continues to grow.”

The Power of Community in a Crisis

“One of the main goals of the mobile pantry is reaching people in their communities who are not able to get to our pantry or other resources in the area. However, there are still many homebound clients within these communities. 

There is a gentleman at one of our client pick-up stops who volunteers as a helpful neighbor and brings groceries directly to the doors of people who are not able to make it down to the Mobile Food Pantry. We get as close as we can, but he goes the extra mile.” 

Taryn Krietzman, RDN, Pantry Coordinator

“We can’t thank you enough for the work JFCS does for our families. You should know that you make a direct and positive impact to our students’ and families’ well-being and we are very grateful for your generosity and good will.  We count ourselves extremely lucky to work alongside JFCS.”

Elizabeth Gura, M.S., School Counselor, Millstone River School

What you are doing is directly impacting the community and together we are doing the work. Thank you again and again for help!

Taylor Block, Panther Pantry, Paul Robeson Charter School

Preparing for the Road Ahead

In addition to an increased delivery schedule, the mobile pantry fleet also grew. In November, JFCS purchased a van, now names Poppy’s Pantry. The van purchase was funded by a private family foundation in memory of Stuart “Poppy” Plotkin.

“The second vehicle allows us to reach even further into the community by accommodating distributions of all sizes and giving us more flexibility when picking up donations from local food drives or other supplies,” said Napell.

JFCS remains poised to adapt the mobile pantry program in the coming months as the situation surrounding COVID-19 evolves.

“First and foremost, we remain committed to providing nutrient-rich foods to the community. We hope to return to a choice model as soon as possible as it provides not only a sense of autonomy and empowerment to those we serve, but also reduces waste, when clients can select items they know their family enjoys,” says Krietzman. “In the short term, we have started to vary protein options offered to clients and allow them to make those selections at distributions sites which allow for this interaction. One by one, we will return more choices to the hands of the clients.”

“The pandemic has brought to light the severity of existing need right here in our Mercer community; many of those we serve were in vulnerable positions even before the pandemic,” says Napell. “We are ready to adapt with each phase and will be here for our entire community on the long road back to ‘normal.’ ”

Learn more about our Mobile Food Pantry…

Follow our journey on Facebook and Instagram to see where in the (Mercer) world our mobile fleet is week after week!

JFCS Honors Volunteers at First Virtual Annual Event

Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County (JFCS) has pivoted their annual fundraiser to a virtual format. The event, Cheers to the Volunteers, set for Thursday, March 25, 2021 at 8 PM, will feature an interactive, virtual wine or coffee tasting for guests.

“Our annual event is an opportunity to bring together community members, donors and partners to celebrate the agency and recognize the efforts of partners who are honored for their exceptional support in the past year,” said Michelle Napell. “In such challenging times, JFCS has been fortunate to be supported by many partners, but we knew this year our volunteers were the true stars.”

The event will be honoring 70 individuals who volunteered throughout the pandemic, specifically in support of JFCS relief efforts in the most challenging times.

“Almost as quickly as the world changed, and JFCS pivoted programs, there were volunteers new and old reaching out to help,” says Eden Aaronson, Coordinator of Volunteers & Community Programs.

Since March 2020, a steady corps of volunteers has helped maintain new programs launched directly in response to the needs JFCS recognized among their clients and the community including making Friendly Weekly Phone Calls to isolated seniors, and grocery shopping for elderly clients unable or uncomfortable navigating the stores. When visits to the JFCS on-site pantry doubled and Mobile Food Pantry distributions ramped up, volunteers were there to pack bag after bag of groceries for distribution. And, twice a week, every week, Kosher Meals on Wheels volunteers show up to deliver hot meals to homebound seniors.

“While we look forward to the day we can welcome hundreds of guests into a ballroom, we are looking forward to creating a celebratory and community spirit through our virtual program,” says Jennifer Agran, JFCS Board First Vice President and Event Chair.

The virtual event will allow guests to select their beverage of choice – red wine, white wine, sparkling wine, Kosher wine or gourmet coffee – and beverages will be shipped directly to their homes. On March 25, guests are invited to join a live Zoom event during which they will be moved into breakout rooms based on their beverage selection and led in an interactive, guided tasting with a wine sommelier or coffee expert.

Event Information including sponsorships and registration can be found on our event site.

Presenting Sponsor: Personal Home Care of New Jersey.

Champion Sponsors Abrams Foundation/Nati Kushner, Crook & Marker, Pat & Ray Schlaefer and Troutman Pepper; Patron Sponsors Access Property Management and Homewatch Caregivers; and Supporter Sponsors First Bank, Gerhsen Group LLC, Hill Wallack LLP, and Orland’s Ewing Memorial Chapel.