The NJBIA “Bridging the Gap” summit, which brought together businesses and nonprofits for a two-day exchange of resources and ideas, was also an opportunity to be inspired by the dynamic leaders of organizations that make an incredible difference in people’s lives.
The 2021 “NJBIA Collaborative Approach Award” was presented to six leaders, businesses and nonprofits who told their inspirational stories in 60-second videos produced for the summit that was held online Feb. 23-24. The winners included Fulfill, Northfield Bank, PSEG Foundation, Rising Tide Capital, and Virtua Health. Carol Stillwell, president & CEO of Stillwell-Hansen, was also personally honored for her philanthropic work.
“It seemed only fitting that for our first summit we honor the organizations and leaders in New Jersey for the work they’ve done to help individuals, businesses and our communities through these very difficult times,” NJBIA President & CEO Michele Siekerka said.
This nonprofit organization, formerly known as the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, is led by President & CEO Kim Guadagno, the former lieutenant governor of New Jersey. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting unemployment has significantly increased the number of hungry families and children, and that’s resulted in Fulfill serving 3.2 million more meals that it had done in the same time period before the pandemic began.
Fulfill has also created an innovative partnership with local restaurants to prepare meals for hungry people in the Ocean County area so that local restaurant workers stay employed. Fulfill has also created partnerships with hospitals to help them stabilize their employees’ families so they can continue their work as first responders during the pandemic.
Speaking from the Fulfill food warehouse, Guadagno said: “I want to thank NJBIA for recognizing the hard work of all of the 50 people that work in this building because they deserve it. They came to work the day after the shutdown and have worked every single day since then to feed our neighbors.”
Carol Stillwell, Stillwell-Hansen
Siekerka called Carol Stillwell “a true role model” who has devoted her life to philanthropic causes and serves as an advocate and major fundraiser for many charities that are close to her heart, such as the Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore, the YMCA of Greater Monmouth County, Hackensack Meridian Health’s Meridian Health Foundation, and Fulfill. Stillwell recently made a $3 million donation to establish the Larkin Stillwell-Hansen Infusion Center, part of Riverview Medical Center’s BuildingHOPE oncology expansion project.
Stillwell said she was “humbled” to receive the NJBIA award and thanked the family members and business mentors who have inspired her and made it possible to pursue philanthropic endeavors, including her late husband, Gordon, “who believed strongly in the idea that as business owners we are charged with the duty to give back.”
Virtua Health in Marlton has been using its partnerships both inside and outside the healthcare industry to respond to COVID-19 pandemic and the needs of surrounding communities, according to President & CEO Dennis Pullin. Virtua joined with local government and local health systems to quickly transform a parking lots into testing centers and when people became critically ill Virtua worked with partners to find solutions to save lives.
As local food insecurity worsened, Virtua launched the Eat Well Mobile Grocery store, funded through philanthropic donations, to serve as a supermarket on wheels that brings healthy affordable food each week to communities in need. And now that the COVID-19 vaccine has become available, Virtual has set up clinics that are vaccinating thousands daily.
“But these innovations are only possible with the support of our partners, from neighborhood groups to corporations, to educational institutions to philanthropic foundations,” Pullin said. “We can do so much more together than we can separately.”
Rising Tide Capital
This nonprofit, led by CEO Alfa Demmellash, was founded in 2004 with a mission to transform lives and communities through entrepreneurship. RTC helps entrepreneurs in disadvantaged communities by providing them with training, mentorship and access to funding for promising ventures. RTC’s Community Business Academy serves a network of over 3,000 entrepreneurs in New Jersey and three other states.
Working in collaboration with nonprofits, higher education institutions, corporations and public agencies, Rising Tide Capital has provided $100,000 in grants to New Jersey-based entrepreneurs that have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis.
“We are living through one of the toughest times of probably are entire lifetimes,” Demmellash said. “And this collaborative approach is essential for us to be able to rebuild the economies of the future… The Rising Tide Mission would not be as effective as it is if it wasn’t for the many funders, universities, churches, nonprofits and a variety of industries and investors coming alongside so many entrepreneurs…,” she said.
Northfield Bank originated more than 1,400 Paycheck Protection Program loans totaling over $150 million to help small businesses save the jobs of more than 13,000 workers in the communities Northfield Bank serves. The bank is now a participating lender in the second round of the Paycheck Protection Program, which began last month and is dedicated to helping very small businesses in underserved communities.
“We take great pride at Northfield in making a difference in the community, and it’s organizations like all of you that make our neighborhoods a better place to live and work,” said Northfield Bank President Steven Klein.
As the philanthropic arm of PSEG, the PSEG Foundation prioritizes investments in the environment, safety, STEM education, workforce development and diversity and inclusion initiatives. Most recently PSEG Foundation announced a $2.5 million commitment to help respond to the impacts of COVID-19 in New Jersey communities. The foundation is directing grants to regional nonprofits, such as foodbanks and organizations that are helping people suffering from the medical, social and economic impacts of COVID-19.
“This has been a very trying year for all of us,” said Calvin Ledford, president of PSEG Foundation. “We’re approaching the one-year anniversary of the impact of COVID-19 on the state of New Jersey. Food insecurity substance abuse, loss of employment … have impacted our communities. We’re trying to be very purposeful and focused on where we aim to provide support and resources in response to the impact on the communities we serve.”
To view the entire video of the awards ceremony, go here or click on the video below.