From the Executive Director:
Everyone is feeling the impact of inflation these days, particularly at the grocery store. We all shake our heads when we hear the total at the checkout counter, but those in our community who were already living on the edge are being hit even harder. Elevated prices are creating a crisis among individuals and families who struggle each month to afford basic necessities.
That’s where Fisherman’s Mark enters. For more than 40 years, our Free MARKet (food pantry) has been a lifeline for people experiencing hard times. With help from supporters like you, we do everything we can to ensure the most vulnerable members of our community don’t go to bed hungry at night.
For our annual Spring Fundraising Appeal, we often shine the light on our innovative social programs, such as Lambertville Academy Early Childhood Learning Center scholarships, or our social services and community outreach initiatives. For this year’s Spring Appeal, we feel compelled to put the focus on our food support program.
Food inflation has made it significantly harder to keep up with the demand at the Free MARKet. In just the first three months of 2023 the number of visitors to our food pantry has increased by 20% over the same period in 2022 (which was a record year). Keeping our shelves stocked with basic necessities has become challenging. Sadly, people’s wages simply aren’t keeping pace with food prices. We are seeing more program participants who work (sometimes two and three jobs) coming in for food support as higher prices reduce buying power at the grocery store. These are folks who were previously barely making ends meet each month, and are now being dragged under by skyrocketing prices for food and gas. If it weren’t for Fisherman’s Mark, many of them would be forced to go without.
During COVID, SNAP (food stamps) benefits were increased and it helped many families bridge the gap so that they could afford groceries. In April of 2023 SNAP benefits went back to pre-COVID levels, reducing the average monthly amount by $223 for families and $186 for seniors. It is quite literally the difference between eating and going hungry for so many in our community. This most recent SNAP policy change will have a huge future impact on our Free MARKet as well as the other local pantries, as individuals and families who have nowhere else to turn reach out to us for assistance.
We want to be there for them, the same way that we have been for over 40 years. Fisherman’s Mark is about offering a “hand up” to those who need one and we welcome anyone in our community who needs assistance. Nobody should ever hang their head when they come through our doors because life teaches us that everyone needs a little help now and then.
We couldn’t do it alone and we humbly seek support from neighbors, business owners and community leaders like you so that we can continue to fulfill our mission. Donations allow us to keep our shelves stocked with basic necessities that no one in our thriving community should ever have to forgo: canned foods, meat, vegetables, rice, flour, milk, eggs, toiletries, and diapers. Now more than ever, we need financial help to keep our MARKet shelves fully stocked.
Thank you for being there for Fisherman’s Mark so that we can continue to be here for our neighbors who need us.
Milou Gallery Silent Auction Benefits Fisherman's Mark
Local artist Perry Milou included a fundraiser for Fisherman’s Mark in the opening night of the “Milou Gallery” located in Lambertville. Perry and four other artists donated pieces as part of a silent auction and 100% of the proceeds were donated to Fisherman’s Mark. The open house packed in art lovers from our area and the silent auction resulted in a $2,000 donation to Fisherman’s Mark. Thank you, Perry Milou for thinking of Fisherman’s Mark and our program participants!
Easter Distribution at the Free MARKet
At Fisherman’s Mark we do our best to make Easter a memorable and joyful time of year for the families who visit our Free MARKet. We always put a particular focus on the children, with Easter baskets, arts and crafts, and a visit from the Easter Bunny. This year, Fisherman’s Mark provided over a hundred
Easter meals to our food pantry clients. Our Free MARKet distributed a shopping bag full of pre-packaged side dishes to each client, along with their choice of a main course. This year that included tilapia, chicken breasts or bacon wrapped turkey breast.
The National Giving Alliance (NGA) also got involved by donating brand new Easter dresses for girls and holiday clothing for boys, one hundred items in all, so that they would look their best while families and friends gather to celebrate the holiday. NGA and its branches work tirelessly to provide the less fortunate in our communities with new clothing, linens and toiletries. They
accomplish this through an expansive network of volunteers and with help of generous resource providers.
PROGRAM SPOTLIGHT: THE MOBILE MARKet
Fisherman’s Mark now offers a Mobile MARKet program as an extension of our Free MARKet (food pantry). The Mobile MARKet serves those in our community who are homebound. There are currently 40 participants, 82% of whom are seniors. We do our best to make it easy to participate in the program. Once clients are registered, we call every Thursday morning to determine if they need food. If so, we help them make a shopping list from
the items offered in our MARKet. Deliveries are then made on the same day. This also gives us the opportunity to check-in on them weekly: Many of our homebound clients live alone, are socially isolated, and/or confined to their homes due to handicaps, or lack transportation. This program is available to anyone in Lambertville or within a 10-mile radius (to include New Hope). In 2022, Fisherman’s Mark made 720 Mobile MARKet deliveries.
LATINO COMMUNITY PARTICIPATES IN STRATEGIC PLAN
On April 27th, Latino parents participated in a strategic planning session with Superintendent Anthony Suozzo of South Hunterdon Regional School District. The productive partnership between Fisherman’s Mark and the school district ensures that the Latino community is reached and their voices are heard. We had a high turnout, and Fisherman’s Mark was there to translate
for our Latino parents. We are incredibly thankful for Superintendent Suozzo and the entire South Hunterdon Regional School District’s interest in seeking Latino input for their Strategic Plan.
Volunteer Spotlight: Tom Forlenza
On Tuesday, April 11th, Fisherman’s Mark hosted its annual Volunteer Appreciation event. The gathering was generously hosted by Holly Hedge Estate in New Hope. Each year at this event we recognize and celebrate the many dedicated individuals who selflessly donate their time and talent to help keep our programs running. It’s also where the Linda Meacham
Excellence in Volunteerism Award is handed out. The 2023 recipient was long-time volunteer Tom Forlenza, whose contributions extend far and wide throughout Fisherman’s Mark.
The Linda Meacham Excellence in Volunteerism Award honors the now retired Fisherman’s Mark Executive Director who started out at the organization as a volunteer. “We created this award to honor her legacy. It’s given to the volunteer who best exemplifies the qualities of ‘giving back’ that Linda Meacham stood for and who upholds the mission of Fisherman’s Mark by being a true advocate for our work in the community.” said Jennifer Williford, our current Executive Director.
Volunteers are nominated and voted on by the staff. “We are fortunate to have so many incredible volunteers at Fisherman’s Mark, so this is never an easy choice for us,” Jennifer added. “When I first arrived here in 2019, I was familiarizing myself with our volunteer program and the various roles they play at Fisherman’s Mark and saw Tom Forelenza’s name listed for almost everything.”
Tom has a long and productive history with Fisherman’s Mark. He has helped to manage the summer Farmstand since its inception, rain or shine. Tom uses his own vehicle to pick up vegetables from the local farms at the crack of dawn and makes sure that the farmstand receives the most beautiful organically grown vegetables.
For many years, Tom also ran the Fisherman’s Mark Community Garden at the Hibernia Firehouse. He is especially busy at Fisherman’s Mark around the holidays and in the had run our Holiday Market. He has ensured that we have a decorated Christmas tree on display. And each Thanksgiving and Christmas, when we hand out turkeys to families on Free MARKet Distribution Day, Tom is the one who transports the turkeys from the farm and makes sure the program runs smoothly. He has also been a huge advocate for our work out in the community. Many times, throughout the years, when Tom comes upon someone or some family that needs a helping hand andbenefit from our services, he has quietly steered them in our direction.
Tom explained how and why he originally got involved: “When I retired in 2007, I was searching for something meaningful to do. I learned about Fisherman’s Mark and the mission. After my first interview I found a welcoming organization and decided
I would like to become a part of their volunteer group. Now, fourteen years later, I am very proud to be part of this
group that truly helps people when they need it the most.
“People often need help and don’t know where to turn. Fisherman’s Mark provides many benefits for those people. It provides people who might otherwise be impoverished with help, hope and some dignity. I feel I am a better person for my efforts here.”
Tom Forlenza has consistently exemplified the mission of Fisherman’s Mark: Help When Help is Needed. Jennifer Williford added, “We couldn’t do what we do without the help of volunteers like Tom and we feel incredibly fortunate
that he walked through our doors fourteen years ago.”
Tom Forlenza (center) accepts his award from Jennifer Williford (left) and Ricardo Zapata (right).
“Every time I leave Fisherman’s Mark, my day is brighter knowing that I have helped someone in their time of need. For me, this means many years of feeling I make a positive difference in people’s lives. It’s what I hoped for when I first started volunteering many years ago.”
~ Tom Forlenza