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Lambertville food pantry developing ESL program


Fisherman’s Mark is well known for food support through our Free MARKet food pantry, but there’s so much more to what we do. We advocate at every level for individuals and families in need of assistance, extending a helping hand to people going through crises, and reaching out to marginalized communities and joining forces to help give them a voice.

We bring meals to the home-bound through our mobile food pantry. These are some of the community-based social service programs that Fisherman’s Mark provides. Our staff runs them with the help of our volunteers and they’re funded through generous donations.

Recently, an elderly client came to us for help. To maintain the privacy of this individual, we’ll call her Rose. Rose has cancer and is unable to speak. She lost her spouse less than two years ago. She lives alone in subsidized housing. She is provided a voucher by the county to help with her rent. Recently, she received a letter from the county advising her that her voucher will not be renewed for the residence she has lived in for 20 years.

Where does a grieving senior citizen with debilitating cancer turn when faced with the possibility of losing her longtime home? Rose came to Fisherman’s Mark. Our social services manager was able to schedule a fair hearing, and advocate for Rose by speaking on her behalf and presenting her dilemma to the decision-makers. With a favorable decision, Rose was able to remain in her residence. While we’ll never know how this might have ended without the involvement of Fisherman’s Mark, we do know that a crisis was solved and Rose is safely at home.

Fisherman’s Mark is very proud of our program, Los Puentes. Los Puentes, or “the bridge,” assists the local Latino population, many of whom are new to the country, in the process of learning English and quite often live at or below poverty level.

Our Recipe for Success program came about as an offshoot of our Los Puentes efforts, when a group of our Latino clients decided they wanted to raise their cooking skills to restaurant-level.

Fisherman’s Mark partnered with Holly Hedge Estate in New Hope, which graciously provided a chef and a kitchen for their classes. The program was a big success. Improving their cooking skills opens up career opportunities for our clients and increases their earning power.

More recently, Fisherman’s Mark partnered with the local school district, when it sought input from the Latino community on its districtwide strategic plan. Our operations and community outreach manager — Ricardo Zapata — rallied 19 parents to the meeting, assisted the school district with translation, and gave parents a voice in the district’s strategic plan.

Yes, we are well known for our food pantry, but what about those who can’t make it to the MARKet, who lack transportation, or are otherwise homebound?

That’s where our Mobile MARKet enters the picture. Once a week, we call those clients who can’t get to us for their shopping orders and we deliver the food to them. With help from the chef at Holly Hedge Estate, we now also provide a home cooked restaurant-quality meal once a week to our Mobile MARKet clients.

We are developing a curriculum-based English as a Second Language program. We will partner with our local library to offer levels of ESL classes with measurable outcomes. These types of ESL programs are sorely lacking in our area. We seek to find ways to assist our Latino neighbors to become well-equipped to enter the workforce.

Fisherman’s Mark provides the staff, the knowledge, and the space for all of these programs. However, it’s our donors and volunteers who make it all possible.

Jennifer Williford is executive director of Fisherman’s Mark Social Services in Lambertville.

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