From Our Executive Director
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. As our tagline, “help when help is needed,” suggests, we advocate at every level for individuals and families who are in need of assistance. It means extending a helping hand to people going through crises. It can also mean reaching out to marginalized communities and joining forces to help give them a voice. It means bringing meals to the homebound 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 amazing volunteers and they’re funded through your generous donations.
But what, exactly, are social services? The general aim of a social service organization is to aid disadvantaged, distressed or vulnerable persons or groups within the community. Food support, homelessness, persons with disabilities, immigrants, refugees, veterans, the economically disadvantaged, the elderly population, these are some examples of the big picture issues that social services organizations tackle and the groups they aid. They can also be much more specialized and nuanced.
If you’re just now hearing about Fisherman’s Mark, let us provide you with a real life example of the type of unique support we provide day in and day out to our clients. In this case, it was an elderly client who came to us for help. To maintain the privacy of this individual and protect her anonymity, we’ll call her Rose. Rose has cancer and is unable to speak. She also lost her spouse less than two years ago and 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 their longtime home? Rose came to Fisherman’s Mark and our Social Services Manager, Chayln Fisher-Watson, jumped right in. Chayln was able to schedule a fair hearing, and advocate for Rose by speaking on her behalf and presenting her dilemma to the decision makers. A favorable decision was handed down and 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. And Chayln is back at work, reviewing the nex
Social Services Manager, Chayln Fisher-Watson helped our client “Rose” to secure her housing voucher.
Fisherman’s Mark is very proud of our program, Los Puentes. Los Puentes, or “the bridge”, is our wide-ranging community outreach program that 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 (which we reported on extensively last year) 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, which graciously provided a chef and a kitchen for their classes and the program was a big success. Improving their cooking skills opens up career opportunities for our clients and also increases their earning power.
Students from the Recipe for Success program – A partnership between Fisherman’s Mark and Holly Hedge Estate in New Hope.
More recently, Fisherman’s Mark partnered with the South Hunterdon School District, when they sought input from the Latino community on their district-wide strategic plan. Our Operations and Community Outreach Manager, Ricardo Zapata, has been a trusted advocate of the Latino community for some time. Ricardo rallied 19 parents to the meeting, assisted the school district with translation, and gave them a voice in the district’s strategic plan. This is another example of the way in which Fisherman’s Mark quietly goes about the business of helping our neighbors.
South Hunterdon School District’s Strategic Planning meeting in partnership with Fisherman’s Mark and Latino parents.
Yes, we are well known for providing food support to our clients who visit our iconic food pantry, which we now call the Free MARKet. We made the name change in an attempt to remove the stigma that can sometimes be associated with the term 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. What is the Mobile MARKet? Once a week, clients who can’t get to us call in their shopping orders and we deliver the food to these individuals.
Director of Operations, Ricardo Zapata, makes deliveries with our Mobile MARKet van.
Remember our Recipe for Success program mentioned earlier, run by the chef at Holly Hedge Estate? With his assistance, we now also provide a home cooked restaurant-quality meal once a week to our Mobile MARKet clients. It’s a special touch that goes beyond simply providing food for those in need. Many of these individuals live alone and are socially isolated. These visits from our staff, who arrive with a smile and a delicious home cooked meal, are very often the highlight of their week.
With the guidance of Chef Jose Calderon, meals are prepared at Holly Hedge Estate and delivered to homebound residents, many of whom live alone and are socially isolated.
What’s next for Fisherman’s Mark? We’re always evolving and looking for new ways to serve members of our community in need. After extensive focus groups and feedback, 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 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. Without all of you, we’d have plenty of great ideas, but no way to implement them. You make it all possible. I am eternally grateful and from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU for your ongoing support!