By Erin Pedrini
Web Production Assistant
“What’s unique about Isles, Inc. and the work that we do is that we are a non-profit whose mission is that we are dedicated to creating self-reliant communities and so you’ll find that the services that we do and the work that we do really does meet the holistic needs of both persons and communities,” said Isles Chief Operating Officer John Hart. Isles is hosting its Third Annual Haunted Harvest 5K and Monster Madness Mile Fun Run on Saturday, Oct. 25 to raise money for its many programs.
Isles, Inc. was founded in 1981 as a community development and environmental organization in Trenton. Isles is a nationally recognized non-profit that collaborates and coordinates services with other non-profits as well, said Hart.
Hart said in 1993 the Isles Youth Institute was opened, which offers a caring, peer-based setting for young adults ages 16 through 24 who want a high school diploma or career. He said that many who attend the institute are school dropouts or young people who have struggled to get their education. He said that the program offers GED programs and vocational training skills in construction, computer technology and office management. The institute also offers life training skills in leadership, finance, health and conflict management.
Another program that Isles offers is the Community Planning and Development Program, which Hart said helps to redevelop communities by teaching residents to organize, identify and address surrounding land through planning projects throughout the region.
Isles offers a Garden Support Program in Urban Agriculture. Hart said that through this program, Isles assists many agencies and people throughout Trenton in maintaining over 60 gardens. The gardens are started in vacant lots around Trenton to add more green space to the city. Hart said anyone in Trenton can call up to be a part of the program and Isles will give out an incubator garden, which is a raised bed, that people can maintain to start with. He said Isles is able to help people maintain it by offering training and coordinating with Isles staff to help them harvest and care for their garden until they feel comfortable enough to take the garden to their own home or start a larger garden in a lot.
“Through Isles Garden Support Network, we want to ensure that the community and people are also taking care of themselves, eating healthy and creating green space and safe places by focusing on urban gardening. So instead of having vacant lots, the communities are dedicated to greening that lot and taking care of it,” said Hart.
As part of that program, Isles also works with the schools in Trenton. He said Isles helps just about every school in the city maintain a garden. “There’s a teaching element there. Many of the folks are not accustomed to having fresh produce or fresh food. Trenton only has one supermarket. So this program starting in schools and working its way out to the community is a manner and way in which we can educate and talk about good nutrition while at the same time creating safe places and green places throughout the city. It’s a perfect education opportunity for the kids,” said Hart.
Hart said what makes Isles most interesting is that it is truly dedicated to its mission which is developing self reliant communities and meeting the needs of those communities in a holistic manner.
“I like the idea that we have ideas and we implement those ideas and develop them and we hope that they become influencing ideas and services so that other communities, other parts of Trenton and the region can say that it is a good idea and we want to model that idea. Seeing our work replicated throughout the region is both satisfying and uplifting, but it also makes you say we are doing something good here and we need to keep doing it,” said Hart. “There’s a lot of non-profits and a lot of people and a lot of organizations who are doing really good. We aren’t better than them but we are trying to make a difference and what we are doing is important. I am really proud to be a part of this organization and the manner and way that we go about it.”
Going along with Isles’ work with the environment and harvesting, the organization hosts a Haunted Run during the harvest season and Halloween. “Harvest time is an important time for us so this is an event that we wanted to combine the time of the year, the holiday, along with the idea that for many of our gardeners throughout the city this is their late harvest time,” said Hart. For the Haunted Run, participants and volunteers are encouraged to wear costumes that will allow them to run or walk to bring in the Halloween aspect of the event.
The Haunted Harvest 5K and Monster Madness Mile Fun Run is being held on Saturday, Oct. 25 at Veterans Park in Hamilton. Registration starts at 7:30 a.m., the Monster Madness Fun Run will begin at 8:30 a.m. and the Haunted Run will begin at 9 a.m. Registration for the Haunted Run costs $30 and the Fun Run costs $15. There will also be awards for the best costumes. Participants can register for the run here or at the door.
To learn more about Isles’ other programs, visit the Isles services page.