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Mercer Street Friends hosted its third annual Leadership Awards event on June 13, when more than 200 guests gathered at the nonprofit’s Ewing food bank to celebrate four local leaders for their dedication and service to the Greater Trenton community.

“It was an exciting evening recognizing the honorees for their outstanding leadership through service to our community,” said Bernie Flynn, former CEO of NJM Insurance Group, who has volunteered his time as the CEO of Mercer Street Friends since February 2020.

The award recipients – Jack Morrison, Odie and Bob LeFever, and Adam Taliaferro – have a long history of supporting Mercer Street Friends, a nonprofit whose mission is to support local families with comprehensive food and education programs.

“When you consider the longevity of loyalty to service by this distinguished group of leaders, it’s extraordinary,” said Courtney Matlock, chief development & marketing officer for Mercer Street Friends. “We are incredibly grateful for their collective commitment to making our community better.”

Jack Morrison, president of JM Group, received the Philanthropic Leadership Award. Morrison’s 25-year relationship with Mercer Street Friends’ food bank began with a turkey drive and has expanded to provide more enduring support for food bank initiatives to combat food insecurity countywide. Because of the direct and immediate impact feeding people has, Morrison knew he had found an organization that aligned with his purpose and sense of service.

In reflecting upon receiving the award for his philanthropic leadership, Morrison said, “This is a moment to celebrate the hard work and dedication of Mercer Street Friends. Their commitment to serving those in need is far greater than anyone receiving an award. They deserve the accolades.”

Odie and Bob LeFever were awarded the Robert M. Appelbaum Service Award for their tremendous leadership and dedication and service of Mercer Street Friends.

A former trustee and board chair, Odie LeFever began her tenure with Mercer Street Friends in 1997 with an ever-present sensitivity to the needs of the community. Prior to her leadership roles, LeFever was a dedicated volunteer, packing bags in the basement of the organization’s original facility, the Meetinghouse in the Mill Hill section of Trenton, which now houses the administrative offices of Mercer Street Friends.

Bob LeFever had a significant impact on the organization as well. He took on the role of director of advancement, broadening the nonprofit’s reach by strengthening relationships with donors, volunteers and the community at large.

“It was Bob Applebaum’s inspiration that led me to becoming involved with Mercer Street Friends in a fundraising capacity,” Bob LeFever said. “This is certainly a full circle moment for Odie and me.”

Ken Blackwell, board chair of Mercer Street Friends, presented the award to the couple.

“Odie and Bob are great examples of Quakers being in service to the community,” Blackwell said. “Together, their on-the-ground efforts have been important to helping Mercer Street Friends grow into the organization that it is today.”

Adam Taliaferro, a former state assemblyman who is director of Strategic Alliances at Bristol Myers Squibb, accepted the Corporate Leadership and Public Service Award on behalf of BMS. Supporting Mercer Street Friends’ mission since 1997, Bristol Myers Squibb employees continue to generously share their time and talent with the organization’s food bank helping with critical programs for students and seniors.

“At BMS we recognize the role we must play to create the change necessary to improve the health of the underserved within our communities,” Taliaferro said. “And we have made it our priority to focus resources on eliminating the barriers that exist for underserved and minority communities.”

Photo Caption: On June 13, Mercer Street Friends hosted their annual Leadership Awards event honoring local leaders for their outstanding commitment to service in the community. L-R Courtney Matlock, Chief Development and Marketing Officer, Mercer Street Friends; Robert (Bob) LeFever recipient of the Robert M. Appelbaum Service Award; Jack Morrison, President of JM Group and recipient of the Philanthropic Leadership Award; Adam Taliaferro,  former New Jersey Assemblyman and Director of Strategic Alliances at Bristol Myer Squibb who accepted the Corporate Leadership and Public Service Award on behalf of BMS; Bernie Flynn, CEO of Mercer Street Friends; (front) Odie LeFever, former trustee and chair of Mercer Street Friends, who received the Robert M. Appelbaum Service Award along with her husband, Bob.


 About Mercer Street Friends

As a Quaker-affiliated, nonsectarian 501(c)(3) organization, Mercer Street Friends is dedicated to nourishing minds and bodies, empowering families and communities by providing comprehensive programs to address poverty and the physical and emotional trauma it creates for children, families and the community. Their work is focused on three critical areas: food, families, and education.