An equitable New Jersey through creative, engaged, sustainable communities

Posted on by Chris Daggett, President and CEO

It is with a great deal of enthusiasm and hope that today we are releasing a new strategic plan for the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, guided by the vision of an equitable New Jersey through creative, engaged, and sustainable communities.

Chris Daggett, Dodge president and CEO

Chris Daggett, Dodge president and CEO

As is clear from demographic trends, New Jersey will soon become one of the first states where no single racial or ethnic group will be in the majority. As a foundation focused exclusively on New Jersey, we must work continually to understand the shifting priorities and needs of communities, and how our programs and operations reflect and serve the people of our state.

Download our strategic plan

Dodge’s strategic plan is the culmination of a comprehensive effort by our entire board and staff to examine how the Foundation’s expertise, influence, and relationships can address challenges and leverage opportunities facing New Jersey.

During this process, we spent a great deal of time examining our intercultural awareness as individuals and as an organization; exploring issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion; reviewing current social, economic, and cultural trends in New Jersey; and talking with grantees, colleagues, and peers. We challenged each other and our assumptions about our grantmaking, our programs, and our organizational direction. The conversations were transformational.

Dodge's Strategic Plan

Dodge’s Strategic Plan

We have identified four goals that center equity at all levels of our organization — program, internal, external, and financial — as well as initial strategies we will pursue over the next three years. Because we know equity is a word with different definitions to different people, we defined what it means to our organization.

At the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, equity means aligning our resources to address historical, institutional, and structural impediments so that New Jerseyans of all races and communities have what is needed to realize a quality life.

We recognize that the completion of this plan is actually just the beginning. We now enter a period of exploration and intentional change as we implement our new vision, mission, goals, and strategies. It also will be a period of risk-taking and learning from successes and failures we experience along the way as we figure out our role in an equitable New Jersey.

As I shared in my strategic planning update in October and again in March, for the next three to five years, Dodge remains committed to our current program areas, supporting initiatives and nonprofit organizations in arts, education, environment, informed communities, and poetry that are innovative and promote collaboration and community-driven decision-making.

We also are committed to being open and transparent, to broaden our intercultural knowledge and skills, and to keep you informed of our progress on the next stages of this work.

For the remainder of 2018, we will continue grantmaking under our current guidelines and criteria while laying the groundwork to examine our programs, technical assistance, operations, investment strategies, and organizational structure through an equity lens. In 2019, we will be moving to our new vision as we explore and experiment with new collaborations and initiatives. In 2020, we hope to be living our vision as we integrate the results into our work through refreshed grantmaking guidelines. Our intent is to be respectful of the relationships and investments we have made throughout our 44 years, while we listen, learn, and reimagine new ways of working to advance our vision for an equitable New Jersey.

Along the way, we want to hear from you — grantees, stakeholders, and anyone else who would like to share their thoughts. Many of you are on the ground every day, doing work that matters to people across the state. We acknowledge and applaud you, and hope that you will let us know how Dodge can support and enhance those efforts.

What is your response to our new vision and mission, and what might that look like in your own organizations? What changes in our practices might help you advance these elements in your work? What are your concerns and questions about this new direction? What might Dodge and/or your organization do to foster more connections between and within communities? What does an equitable New Jersey through creative, engaged, sustainable communities mean to you?

Our first formal effort to get your thoughts will be in a grantee webinar on June 12, details for which will be sent out shortly. We will follow up that session with other formal and informal feedback opportunities as we move forward with our work.

As I said at the outset, we are enthusiastic and hopeful. Enthusiastic about the new direction of Dodge and the renewed purpose of our work. Hopeful about the prospects ahead and the opportunity to help increase the impact of the nonprofit community in New Jersey.

In closing, and in keeping with Dodge’s tradition of incorporating poetry into our everyday lives and in anticipation of our Poetry Festival in October, I share with you the poem read at our April board-staff retreat when Dodge trustees approved the strategic plan with a refreshed and renewed commitment to our home state.

You, Reading This, Be Ready

By William Stafford

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life –

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

Posted in Arts, Collaboration, Community Building, Creativity, Diversity, Dodge Insights, Education, Environment, Informed Communities, News & Announcements, President's Message | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Confronting plastic pollution, creating equitable communities and mapping sustainability issues

Posted on by Sustainable Jersey

2018 New Jersey Sustainability Summit is June 18

Although the sustainability movement in New Jersey is experiencing significant momentum, important work is still on the horizon. There is perhaps no more powerful way to jump start fresh interest and energy into your local efforts than by joining sustainability leaders at the 2018 New Jersey Sustainability Summit. This community represents the forefront of innovation with towns such as Highland Park, Frenchtown, Margate, Maplewood, Princeton and Secaucus revealing their latest and most compelling sustainability strategies and projects.

At the Sustainability Summit, you will learn how to build a shared vision and to leverage new tools to implement ideas that contribute to the collective health of individuals, organizations, economies and the planet. The event attracts over 300 diverse participants from across New Jersey.

SJ Sustainability Summit 2018

Twelve breakout sessions will give you an opportunity to explore different sustainability initiatives. The sessions cover the usual sustainability suspects such as energy and water, but they will also address issues like economic development, social equity, education and art.  Below is a spotlight of three of the sessions planned; you can review the full list by following this link: Breakout Sessions.


SJ Sustainability Summit 2018 plastic.pngPlastics have become a single use item prevalent in many aspects of our daily lives. While convenient, these plastics are problematic not only for the environment, but the recycling industry as well. Communities around New Jersey are increasingly pushing back against the onslaught of plastic including plastic bottles, straws and plastic bags. Long Beach Township has a new ordinance requiring shoppers to bring reusable bags or pay a small fee for paper or recycled plastic bags. Long Beach joins places like Longport, Teaneck and Ventnor as members of a small group of Garden State municipalities that have passed ordinances to either ban plastic bags or place a fee on their use. Various other communities are considering similar policies. The Plastic Pollution session at the Sustainability Summit will focus on innovative initiatives currently underway that curb the use of single plastics from a reduction perspective. The speakers for this session are:

  • Monica Coffey, Chair, Sustainable Margate and Sustainable Downbeach
  • Tina Wishaus, Chair, Sustainable Highland Park
  • Gary Sondermeyer, Vice President, Bayshore Recycling
  • Samantha McGraw, Program Manager, Sustainable Jersey


How can we make sure sustainability is for everyone? Can our efforts to achieve sustainability in our communities also advance social equity at the same time? Learn about how Sustainable Jersey is addressing this challenge by conducting an equity review of the program and by developing an equity tool for municipalities. During this session, you will engage in an interactive exercise applied to your community and hear about initiatives by New Jersey municipalities who are working to eliminate barriers to opportunity and promote the equitable enjoyment of social and environmental health and well-being. The speakers for this session are:

  • Valaria Galarza, Senior Project Manager, Cooper’s Ferry Partnership
  • Marissa Davis, Senior State Program Manager, NJ YMCA State Alliance
  • Tracey Woods, Chair, Maplewood Township Green Team and Sustainable Essex Alliance
  • Melanie Hughes McDermott, PhD., Senior Researcher, Sustainable Jersey


We live within data every day–as we commute, buy goods, visit websites and more. Someone is tracking these actions to gather information they need to make decisions. Within the sustainability world, we do the same thing in order to track our energy use, water consumption and locations of natural resources or creative assets. Data is used to tell a larger story. And it’s the visualization of that data through maps and charts that is essential to effectively communicate those stories. This session will focus specifically on geographic information systems (GIS) as a tool to gather, manage and analyze data for sustainability and planning purposes. You’ll learn how to use basic GIS techniques to identify sustainability issues in your community. The speakers for this session are:

  • Iana Dikidjieva, Consultant to the Hunterdon County Creative Team and the East Trenton Collaborative; Trustee, I Am Trenton Community Foundation (IAT)
  • Mahbubur Meenar, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, Planning and Sustainability. Rowan University
  • Zachary Christman Ph.D., Assistant Professor, GIS Program Director, Rowan University
  • Anthony O’Donnell, Economist, Sustainable Jersey

Attend the New Jersey Sustainability Summit
Don’t miss your chance to start or reignite your sustainability efforts at the 2018 New Jersey Sustainability Summit and hear New Jersey’s First Lady Tammy Snyder Murphy outline the Administration’s goals with regards to energy and the environment as this year’s Sustainability Summit keynote speaker.

More info and to register visit


For more about Sustainable Jersey: Website  Facebook  Twitter   Instagram   LinkedIn


Posted in Collaboration, Community Building, Community Engagement, Environment, equity, Informed Communities, Leadership, News & Announcements, Nonprofit, Opportunities, Sustainable Jersey | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

3 lessons we learned from Voting Block NJ

Posted on by By Cristina Kim and Annie Chabel, Center for Investigative Reporting
Peter Jarvis, center, makes a point while discussing politics with other Morristown residents. Kevin Coughlin the Editor for hosted a Potluck luncheon at the home of Rebecca Feldman in Morristown, where a small number of local residents joined in a political discussion surrounding the upcoming gubernatorial election in November. Photo by Thomas E. Franklin

Peter Jarvis, center, makes a point while discussing politics with other Morristown residents. Kevin Coughlin the Editor for hosted a Potluck luncheon at the home of Rebecca Feldman in Morristown, where a small number of local residents joined in a political discussion surrounding the upcoming gubernatorial election in November.
Photo by Thomas E. Franklin

Posted in Community Building, Grantee Spotlight, Informed Communities, Local News Lab, Media, Nonprofit | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Toms River Regional School District and Township Green Team collaborate to open School of Environmental Sustainability

Posted on by Sustainable Jersey

Poseidon Academy building renewed after experiencing Superstorm Sandy damage

Superstorm Sandy in 2012 had a huge impact on homeowners and businesses in Toms River– over 10,500 homes sustained some level of damage. Last month, the re-opening of a unique building was celebrated, a building that will contribute to the town’s continuing recovery and serve as a flexible workspace promoting environmental research and activism for students and the community for years to come.

Poseidon Academy is a small concrete building located at the foot of the Toms River. The aging marine science building was damaged after it was immersed in over two feet of water caused by Superstorm Sandy.

SJ 1

Thanks to a creative collaboration between the Toms River Regional School District and the Toms River Township Green Team (Toms River United Sustainable Team), the building was transformed and rededicated as the School of Environmental Sustainability Poseidon Lab at a public ceremony on March 26, 2018. The remodeled space will support the new School of Environmental Sustainability (SES), part of a STEAM Career Academy which debuted in September 2017 at Toms River High School East. The upgrade of the Poseidon Lab will benefit students, local citizens and environmental organizations.

Toms River Regional Schools is the largest suburban school district, and the fourth largest school district, in New Jersey. Dr. Marc Natanagara began his career as a high school science teacher more than 30 years ago and is now assistant superintendent in the Toms River Regional School District. Dr. Natanagara engaged district staff, the Township of Toms River, Friends of Ortley Beach, the Barnegat Bay Consortium and other local organizations to work together on a project to rehab the building.

SJ 2

Dr. Natanagara, who is a member of the township green team, said, “The collaborative process of developing this project has connected the school district with many community partners that are now excited and invested in the success of this effort. The refurbishing of a building has become a visible representation in downtown of our academic and community sustainability goals.”

Through a competitive process, the township received a $20,000 Sustainable Jersey grant funded by the PSEG Foundation. The grant money was used to remodel the building and turn it into a workspace for the community. Dr. Natanagara explained, “In the end, the project turned out so much better than was originally imagined. The staff and students got involved in the planning and the school district facilities staff went above and beyond with their renovations. Overall this experience helped clarify and build excitement about our overall sustainability goals. We were able to identify and share skills and resources within our community, some of which we did not know existed. We created new, and solidified existing, partnerships and bonds with our community.”

The STEAM Academy (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math)

SJ 3

The renovated Poseidon Academy building is now a classroom for the Toms River High School East STEAM Career Academy (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math). Toms River Regional Schools opened its career academies (schools within schools) at its three high schools in September 2017. Each academy has a unique curriculum that exposes students to innovative teaching methods, diverse tools and materials, authentic experiences and new courses. The STEAM Academy includes Schools of Engineering, Biomedicine and Environmental Sustainability, with content in marine science, medicine, engineering, science research, genetics, advanced manufacturing and more. Students in this academy focus on problem solving and the design process.

The academies are competitive and students have to apply in eighth grade. Academic records and recommendations from teachers are considered. Enrollment for the STEAM Academy increased this year, most likely due to the enthusiasm generated by the new Poseidon Lab building. The STEAM students are the only students in the district who receive a “Humanities Block,” consisting of STEAM Honors English 1 and STEAM World Civilization, and a STEAM “Math/Science Block,” consisting of STEAM Honors Geometry and STEAM Biology. These students are also the only ones to have a Biology lab. The Biology lab allows students to conduct in-depth research and activities while focusing on college level skills, such as lab journaling.

Expanded courses and opportunities are led by teacher and Poseidon director Jon Hoffman. Students from across the district benefit from School of Environmental Sustainability student outreach as well as local experts recruited as mentors, sponsors, interviewers, speakers and guest teachers. Toms River Regional Schools Superintendent David Healy said, “This Sustainable Jersey grant process has been another perfect opportunity to connect the schools and towns we serve, and it addresses goals set by our Board of Education to expand career education, technology applications and sustainability efforts.”

Jersey Shore Makerfest

If you are interested in experiencing the good work of the Toms River Regional Schools and the green team first hand, then mark your calendar and plan to attend the Jersey Shore Makerfest on October 20, 2018. Dr. Natanagara is excited about this event. He said, “Makerfest is an experimental, experiential, educational and free annual community event. It’s a celebration of creativity and imagination that’s part MythBusters, part science lab, part county fair and part art studio. Over 250 makers and 10,000 attendees joined us in our first three years.” This event also includes the Toms River United Sustainability Team Green Fair in addition to the 70-100 maker booths, LearningSpaces for workshops, an EdTalk stage, a Roborena and a Jersey Shore Hackathon.

Sustainable Jersey Grants

Sustainable Jersey grants are intended to help local governments, schools and school districts make progress toward a sustainable future in general, and specifically toward Sustainable Jersey certification. Projects, like the Poseidon Lab, serve as practical models for the rest of the state while making measurable contributions toward the long-term goal of a sustainable New Jersey. Over $2.4 million in grants have been provided to towns for community-based projects to improve quality of life in New Jersey.

Photos courtesy of Michael Kenny, Toms River Regional Schools

For more about Sustainable Jersey: Website  Facebook  Twitter   Instagram   LinkedIn


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Here’s a free, week-long online poetry retreat just for you

Posted on by Dodge Poetry Staff

watering can

Here in New Jersey, it finally feels like spring. The last bits of snow have melted, we’re shedding our winter coats, and buds are starting to pop up in the grass and on branches. What better day for us to open registration for Spring & Fountain Online?

This week-long online poetry retreat is designed especially for educators to enjoy on their own schedules and from the comfort of their homes, with the added bonus of a web forum for communicating and connecting with other participants from around the country.

During the week of April 22, participants will receive:
• a curated packet of 30 poems by contemporary poets
• seven daily e-mails with mindfulness activities, journal prompts and writing activities
• access to a special Google Group for discussion with other participants
• videos of poets reading their work

We hope that this program will help participants to refresh their creativity and connect to sources of inspiration. Our aim is to give you lots of resources and tools to use not only in the classroom, but also for your own personal enjoyment and creative life.

Registration is open now and will close on April 20th.

Sign up here!

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at or (973) 695-1190.

Posted in Poetry, Tidbits | Leave a comment

37 People Struggling to Get by in New Jersey

Posted on by Mike Rispoli, Free Press

"Humans of New Brunswick" by Wande Ogun

When it comes to telling stories of economic hardship, what can journalists learn from social workers? From oral historians? From artists? From community advocates?

It turns out, a lot.

At a recent workshop at Rutgers University convened by coLAB Arts and Free Press, a dozen people gathered to begin a community collaboration to lift up the stories of New Jersey residents struggling to get by in one of the country’s most expensive states.

In New Jersey, 37 percent of residents have trouble affording basic necessities, according to the United Way of Northern New Jersey. Our project, “37 Voices,” will feature interviews with 37 people living in the greater New Brunswick and Newark area who fall into this threshold — working but finding it hard to pay for basic needs.

The project’s roots lie in a 2017 collaboration between Rutgers University’s NJ Spark and Free Press. That effort focused on training student journalists in community-engagement techniques and telling the stories of New Brunswick’s working poor.


Free Press and the New Brunswick-based group coLAB Arts then decided to take the idea a step further by bringing on six freelance journalists and community partners to tell these stories in ways that would challenge misconceptions about people experiencing economic hardship — and inspire policy change.

This new collaboration comes out of nearly two years of community engagement, group meetings, deep listening, issue exploration and project piloting in New Brunswick.

Project partners include the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey, the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University, the Center for Investigative Reporting, the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers UniversityFeeding New Brunswick NetworkNJ SparkOral History and Folklife Research, the PRAB and United Way of Northern New Jersey.

The journalist team is comprised of Mira Abou ElezzDebbie GalantScott GurianHank KaletAndaiye Taylor and Kristine Villanueva.

The first phase of the project will feature journalists doing community outreach and interviewing 37 people to capture their personal experiences. These interviews will be documented using oral-history techniques and turned into podcasts. Then coLAB Arts will transform interview transcripts into a stage play in 2019.

Researchers from Rutgers will look into overlapping themes from the stories, providing insight into how these personal experiences tie into larger structural or policy challenges around pay, housing, health care, child care, transportation and more in New Jersey.


First step: Building trust, sharing knowledge

Community organizations, artists, researchers and journalists joined together at the kick-off workshop in March. This gathering marked the first step to deepening relationships among group members, promoting a culture of listening and knowledge-sharing, addressing challenges around collaboration head on, and building trust among the people and groups involved.

Laura Bruno and Molly Rennie from the United Way of Northern New Jersey kicked off the workshop to dive deep into the ALICE Report, which stands for “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.”

The data in the report show how 37 percent of New Jersey residents are working but can’t afford basic necessities. Bruno and Rennie helped workshop participants grasp the nuances in the report and the experiences of people who are employed but lack financial stability.

Next, Free Press led a discussion on media portrayals of poverty and economic hardship. The conversation focused on how major news outlets hardly ever cover economic struggles; when they do, it tends to be in the form of a “special project” rather than an ongoing exploration of the root causes and policies that promote inequality.

We designed this session to give project collaborators a deeper understanding of the structural forces at play, with an eye toward evaluating how our collaboration could present stories that center people and paint a more holistic and compassionate picture of their experiences.

Workshop participants broke up into small groups to talk about their own experiences with economic hardship, and to think about how empathy could shape this project.

People talked about how pervasive economic inequality is — and how the perception of what it means to be “poor” may not line up with how people actually feel about their experiences.

People also reflected on how media outlets tend to judge people of color who are struggling — and respond to low-income White people with sympathy.

‘They have a story to tell’

Renee Wolf Koubiadis from the Anti-Poverty Network then spoke with participants about the need to build relationships with people who are struggling financially.

One of the keys, she said, is that people who are in crisis may not be willing to speak with reporters. “They have a story to tell,” she said, noting that it’s important to listen, show patience, accept that people may not respond right away, and establish safe spaces for people to share their experiences.

Next up was Molly Graham of Oral History and Folklife Research, who will be working with journalists involved in the project on capturing the stories and turning them into podcasts.

While she ran through techniques and strategies to document what she called “felt” experiences, the journalism team raised good questions — noting that how you build relationships, ask questions and document information in oral histories differs from how you approach traditional newsgathering.

Journalists and community experts discussed ways to address these challenges, talking about the difference between getting a good headline and getting a good story, and letting people tell their stories as opposed to going into an interview with a story in mind.

While there are different strategies for interviewing and getting information from people, good journalism and good oral history both tell stories in an authentic way that depicts people in all their complexity.

To round out the day, Anish Patel from Rutgers’ Bloustein School spoke about the research that will take place at the end of the project.

Each story will be tagged based on measurable data points from the ALICE Report, and tied to policy and legislation at the local, state and federal levels for further inquiry into the personal experiences of interviewees.

What excited the group was being able to take those personal experiences from the interviews and dive into the larger structures around economic inequality.

The interviews won’t just tell stories; they could lead to policy solutions.

A ‘groundbreaking’ collaboration

Everyone at the March workshop was excited about what this collaboration could produce, and thankful for the opportunity to engage in this ambitious project.

But the discussion wasn’t easy. Participants discussed the challenges involved in bringing together people from various fields to collaborate while respecting the role that each person or organization would play.

People also wrestled with questions about what the group was trying to produce. Was it journalism? Oral history? Art? Research? How could it be all of those things?

It’s a tricky challenge, since journalists pride themselves on being fair and independent. The storytelling involved in the project cuts across disciplines — but the way a journalist tells a story is different from how oral historians capture experiences, which varies from what plays well on the stage.

And the types of questions journalists ask to tell impactful stories may differ from what policy researchers might ask to produce academic research.

Anish Patel from Bloustein sensed this tension in the room as he closed his remarks. He reminded everyone that the project could be “groundbreaking”. Has this type of collaboration ever happened before, he wondered, with this many people from so many different backgrounds?

It’s an important point: No kind of collaboration is easy.

It’s not easy inside one’s own workplace. It’s even more difficult across newsrooms. So imagine the challenges that could pop up in a collaboration among journalists and community organizations, artists and researchers.

But that’s one of the central points of the project: that it would be challenging. These are individuals whose fields rarely overlap. But the role of journalism — and its associations with people and groups outside of the newsroom — is changing.

Community-journalism collaborations are still relatively new, but many of them have a power imbalance, with reporters holding all the cards. They ask the questions, they frame the story, they control the budgets and their newsrooms receive funding grants for or revenue from the journalism being produced.

Those on the journalism side make almost all of the decisions. That’s not a true collaboration.

From dating to going steady

Our project is an attempt to address that:

coLAB Arts, not a media outlet, received funding from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, in partnership with the Knight Foundation, for the project.

Journalists are playing a single role in a much larger, multi-faceted effort.

And community groups are equal partners in the decision-making process.

Along the way, reporters will learn new skills, build strong relationships and share knowledge about the practice of journalism with their collaborators.

It’s the difference between going on a date and going steady.

Community-journalism collaborations are a natural outgrowth of community engagement, which — when done well — connects reporters and residents to listen to and learn from one another.

Collaboration is another step toward building trust and changing how people participate in journalism, a practice that requires mutual buy-in, and investment in time and resources. The ideal end goal: new ways of telling our communities’ stories.

The notion that journalists need to be separate from their communities to do their jobs is outdated, and could be one of the reasons why so many people don’t trust reporters. Our work in News Voices for the past three years has sought to change that, to bring communities and newsrooms closer together, and to find ways for journalism to strengthen communities.

This project is one step toward seeing if that’s possible. Along the way we will document this process and share what we learn so others can embark on similar collaborations. As this experiment moves forward, we hope you’ll have a chance to learn with us.

Posted in Arts, Collaboration, Community Building, Free Press, Informed Communities, Media | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sustainable Jersey: Artists and creative powerhouses roll up their sleeves to cultivate a sustainable community

Posted on by Sustainable Jersey

SJ frenchtown 1

What are the unique qualities that make your community feel like a vibrant place to live?

In Frenchtown, a volunteer group set out to document and map the creative people, places, events, businesses, and resources throughout Hunterdon County in an effort to build a creative network. Their effort yielded far more than the 179 initial entries on the first Creative Assets Inventory in Hunterdon County.

“I think we’re really on to something,” said Leigh Marino, the chair of the Hunterdon County Creative Team and a local artist. “There is a buzz about this work. We’re optimistic. It feels like we are building an important movement that our community needs.”

About 150 people converged on March 11 at ArtYard, a contemporary art center in Frenchtown, to connect and celebrate the launch of the inventory at a kickoff event
organized by Sustainable Frenchtown and the Hunterdon County Creative Team, partners in the project.

Creative community building does not happen overnight

SJ Frenchtown The idea for the project took form at a green team meeting two years ago. Volunteer members of Sustainable Frenchtown were dividing up the tasks for the group’s Sustainable Jersey recertification application. When the Sustainable Jersey Arts and Creative Culture suite of actions was proposed, Leigh volunteered to work on the effort.

Here’s how they did it:

The first action in the Sustainable Jersey Arts and Creative Culture category is: Establish a Creative Team. After meetings and discussions, the members of Sustainable Frenchtown decided to broaden the creative team to represent the whole region and appointed Leigh as the official representative and coordinator. Leigh hosted the inaugural meeting in her backyard, and the team is now called the Hunterdon County Creative Team. It includes artists, local business members, community groups and members of the Frenchtown Green Team (Sustainable Frenchtown), Holland Township Green Team, Alexandria Township Green Team, Kingwood Township Green Team and Lambertville Green Team.

Conducting an inventory of all things creative

Frenchtown Borough has a long history as a haven for artists and creative entrepreneurs including writers, musicians, chefs, performers, fine artists and designers. In order to understand the full capacity of the cultural community, the Hunterdon County Creative Team decided to work on the Sustainable Jersey action: Creative Assets Inventory.

Sustainable Frenchtown was awarded a $10,000 Sustainable Jersey grant that was used to secure consultants to help guide the inventory process and provide technical expertise.

Project consultants Susan Mania and Iana Dikidjieva from Environmental Connection, Inc., were hired. They have considerable experience in the arts, community-engaged asset mappin,g and the creative community in Hunterdon County.

“This is my community, so it has been a total joy to do this work,” Susan said. “The process has been a true grassroots effort. First, we worked with the core group of stakeholders to define what a creative asset is and then we provided ideas on how to categorize them. After we had direction, we got started on the outreach and built out the online inventory site.”

The Hunterdon County Creative Team separated the directory into seven categories:
Sj Frenchtown 51) Creative People-Cultural Professionals and Artists
2) Cultural Industries and Businesses
3) Creative Places-Cultural Facilities, Natural/Urban Spaces, Potential Resources
4) Cultural Institutions, Nonprofits and Educational Organizations
5) Community Cultural Associations
6) Cultural Events and Festivals and
7) Supporting Resources.

SJ Frenchtown 3_n

Then the team embarked on conducting the inventory. The idea is that when you know what you have, who the creative people are, and where they work and play, you will have a good foundation to build a creative network, Susan said.

“It was hard explaining the concept of a creative inventory in the beginning,” she said. “We had to rework our pitch and messaging a few times to get people interested; at first community members thought we were selling something. The idea of doing an inventory of our creative assets is so different that the project took some nurturing to get it moving.”

“This was a ‘boots on the ground, knock on doors’ operation. We had to go door to door to our friends and neighbors and get them excited,” added Susan.

A mobile kiosk was placed in select stores like coffee shops, a bookstore and hardware stores in Frenchtown and window decals were placed on store windows. Each kiosk had a computer with information about the inventory and provided an easy way for people to enter their information into the directory on-site.

“The window decals brought local awareness and involved the businesses,” Leigh said. “The business owners know their customers and they directed the right people to our online kiosk. Our business owners became invested in the project and showed us that the community cares about what we are trying to do.”
SJ Frenchtown 4What’s next?

When asked about the next steps, Leigh said, “We’re not sure what the future of this project looks like. It’s like we discovered a seed that we’ve planted and have been nurturing. Now that seed has sprouted and we’re all wondering what kind of plant it will be. Not knowing the answer is part of the excitement.”

After the event, project organizers have made connections with the Hunterdon Arts and Cultural Commission and the County Economic Development officer in addition to fielding requests from groups in New Jersey and beyond who are interested in replicating the project. Leigh added, “We hope that other local surrounding green teams and creative groups will build on what we are doing. My advice to them is don’t get discouraged. The right people will show up when you need them. I know our creative community will take our project to the next level. The more people that join, the more powerful it becomes.”


For more about Sustainable Jersey: Website Facebook  Twitter   Instagram   LinkedIn



Posted in Arts, Collaboration, Community Building, Community Engagement, Environment, Sustainable Jersey | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

CNJG: Philanthropy’s message to Washington

Posted on by Nina Stack, President of the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers


This week hundreds of representatives from private foundations are converging on Capitol Hill to share stories of impact and ask policymakers to consider the implications of tax and policy changes on the essential work of our social sector. Foundations on the Hill brings together grantmakers from across the nation, some representing large billion dollar philanthropies, others small family foundations.

This year Council of New Jersey Grantmakers members from independent, family, and corporate foundations expect to meet with each of New Jersey’s 12 Congressional offices and two Senators. Joining us will be our colleague Linda Czipo, president of the Center for Non-Profits, New Jersey’s leading voice for our state’s charitable organizations.

We have a number of important topics to cover in these meetings.

We want to encourage our representatives to support legislation for a Universal Charitable Deduction, which would expand the tax incentive to everyone one that files a tax return, not just those who are wealthy enough to itemize. With the passage of last year’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act far fewer Americans will itemize, and therefore claim the charitable tax deduction. This puts at risk billions of dollars in donations needed to ensure thriving communities. The proposed Universal Charitable Deduction would put the deduction “above-the-line,” opening up this incentive to everyone. Think of it as democratizing charitable giving.

We will let them know that we oppose any repeal or changes to the Johnson Amendment, an essential regulation that has successfully kept electioneering OUT of charitable work. For decades, this amendment has protected charities from having to wade into partisan politics. Some claim that not being able to endorse a candidate from the pulpit infringes on free speech. This is not a free speech issue.

Consider, for example, the local Boys and Girls club not endorsing a candidate for reelection to town council, and that candidate then withholding town funding. Or a church that doesn’t want to take a side on a partisan issue. What punishment might the zoning board or tax appraiser be pressured to inflict? This is an important issue that both my organization and the Center for Non-Profits have spoken up about on numerous occasions.

We also expect to speak in support of a fair and accurate 2020 US Census. Because the federal government uses the census information to allocate funding that helps underwrite so many vital social services the philanthropic community cares deeply about this. Most believe the Census is primarily about elected representation in Washington. But its impact and value goes far beyond how many seats in Congress a state receives. It is a critical component of a functioning democracy and a just society. Local and state governments, businesses, nonprofits and, yes, foundations, rely on data to allocate funding, define where services are delivered, and promote economic development. This informs decisions about schools, seniors, veterans, and a host of other community needs. Businesses use the census data to make critical choices about their investments and growth.

When populations are undercounted – as is always the case in hard-to-count communities, including people of color, immigrants, young children, urban and rural low-income – it means less government funding, representation, and private sector investment in those communities. And do you realize that undertaking a census every 10 years is actually one of the very few tasks specifically called for in the US Constitution – it is an important civic obligation. One last thought on the census…if you’ve used or one of those other online family tree services…you’ve relied on census data.

Philanthropy touches every New Jersey resident every day. We will be sharing stories of philanthropy’s impact and how foundations can be a resource for expertise, best practice and model programs. We will talk about how the nonprofit sector is a job creator, responsible for 10% of the American workforce, making it is the 3rd largest sector in the US behind retail and manufacturing. And we will make sure our policymakers realize that even with all its assets, philanthropy cannot come close to filling gaps when government steps back. The numbers just don’t add up.

These are among the issues and ideas that we’ll be talking about this week during Foundations on the Hill. Wish us luck.

Posted in Advocacy, Community Building, Council of New Jersey Grantmakers, Philanthropy | Leave a comment

New Gallery at 14 Maple exhibit features work by 39 New Jersey women artists

Posted on by Dodge


Thirty-nine works by 39 women artists, all from New Jersey, are on display as part of approaching VIBRANCY, the Gallery at 14 Maple’s newest exhibit in Morristown.

Morris Arts hosts a free opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 15 on the third floor of 14 Maple Avenue featuring the guest curators, Mary Birmingham and Sarah Walko, both of the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey, and many of the artists behind the work, which was culled from more than 1,000 submissions. All are welcome.

Focused on presenting the diversity of women artists working in this region, the exhibit includes work across many mediums.

“In curating this show, we looked for art that conveyed the idea of vibrancy — a state of being that is filled with energy and life unhindered by internal or external barriers,” according to a statement from Birminham and Walko. “We were rewarded with works by a diverse group of women artists from across the state that pulsates with dynamic energy.  The show includes vivid portraits of women and girls, work exploring the beauty and vulnerability of nature and more. The exhibition shows the diverse ways women artists are working now, from textile and fiber to painting, collage, photography, and various forms of sculpture. approaching VIBRANCY is an aspiration toward dynamism, action, passion, energy, ebullience, and vitality.”

It features work from the following artists:

Olga Alexander (Glen Ridge); Caren King Choi (Secaucus); Andrea Brooke D’alessandro (Toms River); Kate Dodd; Shari Epstein (Long Branch); Lisa Ficarelli-Halpern (Shrewsbury); Asha Ganpat (Montclair); Suzan Globus (Fair Haven); Marsha Goldberg (Highland Park); Ellen Hanauer: Susan Hockaday (Hopewell); Suzan Laura Kammin; Jill Kerwick (Fair Haven); Donna Conklin King (Roseland); Michelle Knox; Parvathi Kumar (Bridgewater); Pat Lay; Jean LeBlanc; Wendy Letven (Clifton); Sue Ellen Leys (Maplewood); Betty McGeehan (Morristown); Anne Q. McKeown; Deborah Guzmán Meyer (Montclair); Perri Neri (Highland Park); Katie Niewodowski (Jersey City); Carol Nussbaum (Short Hills); Erin O’Brien-Kenna; Laurie Riccadonna (Jersey City); Sherry Beth Sacks; Lisa Sanders (Newark); Theda Sandiford; Fran Shalom; Jessica Skultety (Phillipsburg); Amanda Thackray; Marianne Trent (Bedminster); Claudia Waters (Montclair); Lisa Westheimer (West Orange); Gail Winbury (Westfield) and Barbara Wisoff (Summit).

Additionally, at the opening reception, the winners of the Ehlers and Coladarci Arts Scholarships (pianist John Duc-Tuan Nguyen and actress Nicole Giordano, respectively) will be introduced and recognized for their achievements.

The exhibit runs through August 24, 2018. The distinctive space of the Gallery at 14 Maple, is located on the 3rd floor of the LEED-certified “green” building at 14 Maple Avenue in Morristown, NJ. Morris Arts gratefully acknowledges sponsorship for this exhibit by and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.

Posted in Arts, Events & Workshops, Gallery at 14 Maple | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Exciting Poet Line-Up for Whose Body? Celebration and Reclamation

Posted on by Dodge Poetry Staff

Poet Photos Header

This week, we kicked off the Whose Body? Project with videos of Ada Limón and Jericho Brown reading their poems “The Vulture & the Body” and “I am a Virus.” We’ll be posting two videos each week for the rest of the month, by poets Aimee NezhukumatathilC. BainRachel WileyRigoberto GonzálezPriscilla Orr, and Joseph Millar.

If you loved the first two videos in the series, you won’t want to miss our upcoming in-person event, Whose Body? Celebration and Reclamation on March 24th , 10 a.m. — 3:00 p.m. in Princeton, NJ.

We have a lineup of fantastic poets (two of whom have also contributed videos to the Whose Body Project!) who will be reading and performing as well as leading small group conversations and writing activities throughout the day. The featured performers are:

C. BainKay Ulanday BarrettMahogany L. Browne

Robert CarnevaleCortney CharlestonOna GritzNicole Homer

Priscilla OrrJC ToddMargaret Waldock

Rachel Wiley

Whose Body? is a question that can act as an entryway to conversations about a multitude of issues, ranging from body image and body trauma to the incarcerated body and environment and the body.

The Whose Body? Celebration and Reclamation event, and these conversations, are not just for poets and writers. Anyone who is interested in diving deeper into what it means to live embodied in this world can use poetry as springboard.

Whose Body? Celebration and Reclamation is open to the public, and any teachers in attendance are eligible to receive PDH. We are collecting a $15 meal fee to covering catering costs for lunch.

We hope you’ll join us at this special event!

Click here to register

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What might an equitable New Jersey look like?

Posted on by Chris Daggett, Dodge Foundation President and CEO

An update on our strategic planning process

Equity is one of the most important issues facing society today.

As we witness the unrelenting march of current events — whether through personal experience or through our screens — it has become increasingly difficult to ignore that many of our systems are not designed to incorporate the voices and needs of all people.  We’ve reached a very troubling point in our country where the tenor of conversations in kitchens, boardrooms, and the halls of government have become increasingly polarized. At times, it feels as though our democracy as we know it is slipping from our grasp, as the trust we feel toward the pillars of our society — government, business, media, and religion — erodes faster than most of us ever could have imagined.

These are indeed challenging times.

The philanthropic sector focuses on tackling difficult problems facing our society, often by working together and across sectors to find solutions. Foundations across the country are raising and wrestling with the questions and challenges of increasing equity in the communities they serve, each bringing their unique perspective and strengths to this important work.

Today, I share questions we at the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation have been asking ourselves as part of this discussion and as we imagine the next 40 years of our foundation through our strategic review:

What might an equitable New Jersey look like? What might be our role in achieving equity in our state?

In beginning to explore the answer to these questions and others, we quickly realized that a deeper understanding of equity must begin with a deeper exploration of our own personal cultural histories, attitudes, and assumptions.

Over the past nine months, we’ve been working with a consultant to gauge the intercultural development of our board and staff, both as individuals and as an organization, and to determine how best to advance our skills in this regard. We are learning we each have a different perspective and awareness of our own identities and those of others. To become more culturally aware takes time, concerted effort, and a willingness to be uncomfortable at times.

We also embarked on an Equity Listening Tour, beginning with conversations with other foundations engaged in this work. We are learning that equity work is, in all aspects of the word, a journey. It begins in the slow, long-term work of building shared meaning, understanding the impacts — intended and unintended — inequity has had on communities, listening to the diversity of voices in communities, and examining power structures.

The work ahead is to explore how we might build more inclusive internal and external policies and practices, how to bring our partners along on this journey, and how we might amplify equity conversations in communities across New Jersey.

We do not yet have answers to these questions — and many more surely will come up along the way.

What we do know, as I shared in my strategic planning update in October, is that Dodge remains committed over the next three to five years to the areas of our current work — supporting initiatives and nonprofit organizations in the arts, education, environment, informed communities, and poetry that are innovative and promote collaboration and community-driven decision-making.

We are committed to inviting you to the conversation, and over the next several months will continue to share insights into our process and the questions we’re asking ourselves. We’ll communicate any changes to our policies or processes originating from our equity work as they arise.

In the meantime, here is a sampling of some of the articles, videos, and reports we have found helpful to better understand the historical, institutional, and structural impediments and inequalities in our society.

We invite you to read them, to think about them, and to consider the same questions we’re exploring — what might an equitable New Jersey look like, and what might be your role in achieving equity in our state?

Posted in Community Building, Dodge Insights, equity, Leadership, Philanthropy, President's Message | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Dodge Q&A: Meet our new grants manager

Posted on by Dodge

The Dodge Q&A series is designed to introduce you to Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation staff as they share what they’re learning and thinking about as they visit with nonprofits around the state. They’ll also reveal a few things about themselves you might not have known. 

Last fall, Dodge welcomed Marisa Benson as our new grants manager. In a recent conversation, Marisa shares her interest in systems management, how she nurtures creativity, and what she tells people about New Jersey when she’s on international arts trips. 

Can you tell me a little about your background? 

MarisaBensonI am passionate about making transformative experiences happen, whether that be through program management, systems management/design, or community engagement. I started with an interest in the arts and over time transitioned to program and systems management. My career has been at the crossroads of the arts and diplomacy. It is exciting to see the impact of funding and capacity-building initiatives and to learn about the networks/systems which support them in both local and international communities.  


How do you nurture creativity in your job and in your life? 

At work, I try to apply different perspectives when approaching an issue and seek input when needed. I would love to learn how to take graphic notes, I think it is an inspiring way to keep a record of events. In my life, I immerse myself in arts, through creating, performing and participating. I think it is important to experience diverse offerings of art, meet new people, and go outside one’s comfort zone often.  

Do you have a favorite book, movie, or exhibit you’ve seen so far in 2018? Tell us a little about it.  

My favorite films so far have been Human Flow, Ai Wei Wei’s film on the refugee crisis and Paddington 2. Human Flow speaks to the gravity of the refugee situation. If there is one film for people to see in their lifetime, I would say Human Flow is that film. Paddington 2 is a great film on admirable, peaceful interaction and it stars a cute bear! 

We hear you prioritize travel in your life, and have visited Kenya, Hungary, Oman, and the Philippines for arts-centered learning trips recently. When abroad, what do you tell people about New Jersey? 

New Jersey is a place where there are systems and resources in place to foster community engagement. There are diverse landscapes throughout the state. The state includes a good balance of city, suburban and rural areas and opportunity for most to receive a quality education. In New Jersey, there is funding support available for nonprofit organizations to apply to and most organizations tend to diversify their revenue streams. I also mention that there are organizations/people here that might be willing to collaborate on projects and note the importance of building bridges between communities.  

Do you have a question for Dodge staff? Send it to Meghan Jambor at and it may appear here in a future Dodge Q&A. 

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Mayors are the new front-line leaders on climate change

Posted on by Randall Solomon, Executive Director, Sustainable Jersey

SJ mayors 3

Sustainable Jersey Gold Star in Energy provides pathway to goal

Franklin Township Mayor Phil Kramer was distraught when it was announced the United States was pulling out of the Paris Climate Accords.

“I actually said to myself, someone should do something about this and then I looked down at my business card and saw the word mayor and said ok,” Kramer told a sold-out New Jersey Mayors’ Climate Summit, at which over 175 mayors, officials, and leaders from municipalities large and small attended.

“This is a proud moment for New Jersey and I’m happy to be here to show leadership on this issue,” said Mayor Ravinder Bhalla of Hoboken.

The Mayor of Princeton Liz Lempert agreed. “Although this is a bipartisan issue, we have a lack of leadership from Washington D.C. and the fact is a lot of the efforts that are going to go into helping our country do its part with the worldwide effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is going to come at the local level,” Lempert said. “It is really important that as mayors, we step up. I’m proud to be a Climate Mayor and to be a part of this effort.”

SJ mayors

Mayors from across New Jersey agreed to take a leadership role on climate change. By the time of the event, the first twelve mayors formally pledged to work with Sustainable Jersey to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their towns. The list will be updated as the additional mayors officially sign-on. See the list and read the pledge here.

Mayor Bruce Packer of Glen Rock added, “For my part, I’m happy to be a Climate Mayor, I hope every mayor will sign up. This is a bipartisan issue; this is not political.” Mayor Vic DeLuca of Maplewood said, “It is very important as elected officials that we speak up and speak out about our commitment to climate action.”

Sustainable Jersey’s Gold Star in Energy

Mayor John C. McCormac of Woodbridge Township noted, “There are a couple thousand athletes in South Korea doing what we are doing right now — going for the gold. They are looking for gold medals in the Olympics and we’re going for the gold in energy with Sustainable Jersey.”

Woodbridge Township is well poised to achieve gold as it has, under Mayor McCormac’s leadership, received our Sustainability Champion award eight times in the large population category. Woodbridge has achieved the highest point totals in the state for each year it participated so far.

SJ mayors 2

Twelve New Jersey mayors publicly pledged to collaborate with Sustainable Jersey and make a significant effort to achieve Sustainable Jersey’s Gold Star Standard in Energy. It’s one thing to sign a pledge, it is another to have an action plan to achieve it and a way to track progress. By working toward the Gold Star Standard in Energy, these municipalities will be implementing proven strategies that will make a major contribution to our statewide effort to reduce greenhouse gasses.

Nine of the 12 towns have achieved silver-level certification with Sustainable Jersey. Bruce A. Harris, the mayor of Chatham Borough, said, “We are committed to being a sustainable community. When we think about going for the gold, we say we have no choice because that is what we have been doing. We are a small community of 9,000 people and are dependent on the work of volunteers. We have a core group of very committed volunteers to work on this.”

Any municipality that achieves the Gold Star in Energy can say with confidence — backed up with rigorous documentary evidence — that they are on a clear trajectory to solving the climate crisis. Mayor Phil Kramer agreed, saying, “It’s a high hurdle to get that gold and it should be a high hurdle. We should all strive for it.”

Sustainable Jersey staff will work with municipalities moving forward on the energy actions.

Many of the municipal leaders gave a brief review of what they are working on and their plans for the future.

“Hoboken is an urban laboratory and a national model for climate adaptation with more than $90 million dollars invested in resilient stormwater management by the city and local partners, as well as almost a quarter of a billion dollars in state and federal funding through our Rebuilt By Design program, which protects us from the coastal flooding we saw with Super Storm Sandy and about three million invested in energy security through PSEG,” Mayor Ravinder Bhalla of Hoboken said. “We continue to be a leader in climate mitigation as well as part of that effort working on our Master Plan. We incorporated a green building and environmental sustainability element in the Master Plan that includes a goal to exceed the carbon reduction goals established by the Paris Climate Accord and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles by increasing walking, biking, and mass transit use. As we work to undertake these goals in 2018, we will be doing a feasibility study for a city-wide microgrid.”

The primary goal is reducing greenhouse gas emissions. New Jersey’s Global Warming Response Act calls for an 80 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from 2006 levels by the year 2050. To meet this target, New Jersey will have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a rate of 3.6 percent a year, every year.

The Gold Star in Energy identifies the specific actions and levels of performance that municipalities can, and must, achieve for us to reach our goals for a sustainable New Jersey.

“This year we plan to work with Sustainable Lawrence and our local business community to get more people involved in the Direct Install Program. It’s a win-win for everyone,” Mayor Christopher Bobbitt of Lawrence Township said.

The Direct Install component of the New Jersey Clean Energy Program is an example of an action that will contribute to bringing down energy consumption and emissions in the community.

The Start of Something Great

NJ First Lady Tammy Snyder Murphy made a surprise appearance at the Summit and addressed the group. She said, “It is especially nice to be here when it is to bring leaders together to discuss climate change and the steps we can take together to protect our residents and communities. After eight years of standing still, New Jersey is ready to lead again. Thankfully even when there was not much to cheer about at the state level, you and your fellow mayors stood up to do what was right by your communities. Unfortunately, you largely had to do this on your own. I think that is changing. I cannot wait to do things together.”

Mayor Victor Sordillo of Warren Township concluded, “This is the start of something great. We all see the effects of climate change in the floods and storms we have; we feel the impacts of climate change in the extreme cold days and extreme warm summer days and now we must act or else our grandchildren, and I have seven grandchildren, will not have as good a world to live in as we do now.”

For those who missed the event, view a highlight reel of First Lady Tammy Snyder Murphy’s speech and post-event mayors’ news conference here.

A recording of the full event will be available shortly. Sustainable Jersey, the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters Education Fund and Rutgers University Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy hosted the NJ Mayors’ Climate Summit.


For more about Sustainable Jersey: Website  Facebook  Twitter   Instagram   LinkedIn

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Going Together to Go Far: How Collaboration Strengthens NJ’s Disaster Response & Relief

Posted on by Linda Hardy, former Disaster Resiliency Coordinator with NJVOAD

We recently spoke with our colleagues at New Jersey Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NJVOAD) after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria devastated Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, respectively. 

NJVOAD recognized the lessons from New Jersey’s experience with Hurricane Sandy were essential to future disaster response and relief efforts, and brought together their members for a day of reflection, learning, and to start the process of ensuring that those lessons would be implemented in future disaster responses. Linda Hardy shares the work that came out of NJVOAD’s Call to Collaboration and how their system improvements are benefitting communities thousands of miles from New Jersey.



There’s a proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.” In the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, all anyone knew for sure when looking at the depth and extent of need, was that those looking to help needed to go — now.  Survivors needed immediate help, and time to plan out the entire recovery process wasn’t an option.

But as it goes with all recoveries, there are lessons to be learned about what went well and what didn’t, and questions raised about what could be done in the future to try and remedy some of those setbacks. Those were exactly the conversations New Jersey Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NJVOAD) sought to have at their Call to Collaboration conference held in October of 2015.

The conference brought together stakeholders from various organizations that helped, and in some cases, were still helping with recovery three years after Sandy. The goal was to have conversations that would seek to find these “lessons learned” and brainstorm ways to help improve future disaster response and recovery.


Discussions addressed topics such as funding advocacy, continuity of survivor services, communication dissemination, feeding and sheltering. From this event, several working groups were formed to continue those conversations and create potential solutions to the discovered pitfalls.

One such working group focused on donations and volunteer management. The group knew that after disasters there is an outpouring of help being offered by people, but there are some serious gaps in how to best capture and direct this goodwill in a positive and productive way.

Instead of receiving material donations that sometimes couldn’t be used or distributed, what was the best way to collect and organize those donations, or better yet, educate the public on the benefits of giving financial donations?

Continued discussions by this group led to NJVOAD’s inclusion in the State’s Donations Management Annex. Because of this partnership, official messaging from the State during the recent 2017 hurricanes directed the public to HELPNJNOW.ORG — a website developed and maintained by NJVOAD, in partnership with the NJ Office of Emergency Management and the Governor’s Office of Volunteerism — which educates people on disaster preparedness and the best ways to help after a disaster.


A disaster case management working group was also formed. Many different organizations helped with the working group after Sandy, and the collective learning and wisdom of those organizations resulted in the building of two key resources.

First, the group created a Disaster Recovery Resource guide to inform and improve the recovery planning efforts of future disaster survivors. This resource has been utilized in multiple disasters and became the foundation of Texas’s Hurricane Harvey Recovery Guide.

Second, with the goal of minimizing the abundance of paperwork survivors are required to fill out to receive services after a disaster, a common screening form was created to be shared with the numerous organizations responding to meet the immediate needs of survivors and improve the likelihood of an informed placement with the most appropriate provider. This form was recently used in Texas and Florida by one of the partnering organizations during their response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Deliverables such as these are just the beginning of what can be done with the collective knowledge and experience of veteran disaster organizations, and the conversation is just beginning. The hope is that with every effort to work together, communities affected by future disasters will see smoother, shorter and more effective overall recoveries.

To find out more about NJVOAD and how your organization can get involved, visit

Linda HardyLinda Hardy is a former Disaster Resiliency Coordinator with NJVOAD.  In her three years with NJVOAD, she has supported long-term recovery groups and regional VOADs and COADs (Community Organizations Active in Disaster) as they sought to help NJ residents recover from Hurricane Sandy and prepare for future disasters.

Posted in Creative NJ, Environment, Hurricane Sandy Recovery | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Whose Body? Celebration & Reclamation Event on March 24th

Posted on by Dodge Poetry Staff


As part of the National Poetry Coalition’s programming initiative, Where My Dreaming and My Loving Live: Poetry & the Body, Dodge Poetry is launching the month-long Whose Body? Project next month.

Whose Body? is a question that arose time and again as we considered the theme of Poetry & the Body. It’s a question that emerges when we consider many different issues, including body image, body trauma, environment & the body, the marginalized body, the incarcerated body, body politics, healing & the body, the gendered body, the non-gendered body, and senses & the body.

The Whose Body? Project will feature several components during the month of March, which you can read about in more detail here, including

  • Videos of eight poets reading work that speaks to the question Whose Body? from different points of view. A new video will be posted to our Tumblr page twice a week throughout March
  • A #WhoseBody social media takeover day in mid-March, designed to help us speak back to the photoshopped, filtered and unrealistic images of bodies that fill our screens every day

Today, we’re opening registration for a special event at the end of March, Whose Body? Celebration & Reclamation. This event will feature

  • a dozen poets
  • performances and readings
  • small group conversations, and
  • writing activities

…all approaching the question Whose Body? from many points of view.

The Celebration, open to the public, will be held on Saturday, March 24, 2018 in Princeton, NJ from 10 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Registration required.

Register today!

Posted in Poetry, Poetry Archives, Tidbits | Tagged , , | Leave a comment
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