The Trenton Historic Development Collaborative
Community Grants Program
The Trenton Historic Development Collaborative (THDC) neighborhood includes much of the historic core of Trenton's African American community. In 2011, in the context of the closure of Mercer Hospital, a group of stakeholders called the Trenton Historic Development Collaborative worked with Isles to create a revitalization plan for the area, which was approved by the NJ Dept of Community Affairs under the NRTC program. The THDC included organizations in the neighborhood, such as Shiloh CDC, Mercer Street Friends, and the women's organization that ran the Carver Center, as well as residents and neighborhood associations. Funding provided by DCA supported projects included in the plan.
One priority for residents was to create a community grants program to support grassroots organizations, unincorporated groups, and resident activists, who were instrumental both in creating the plan and in doing remarkable work in the neighborhood. In 2014, Isles and the THDC asked I Am Trenton to pilot a community grant round, which funded the first 10 projects. The THDC program became a model both for our own neighborhood grants and a case study used by stakeholders around the state to set up their own programs.
The Serenity Garden
Ms. Amini Sababu started the Serenity Garden on the corner of Prospect and Bellevue Avenue as a memorial for victims of violence - a place of peace and healing for all who have pain in their hearts. She convinced the owner of the abandoned building that stood on the lot to demolish it, and then to turn the lot over for community use.
With a small grant in the THDC pilot round in 2014, she built up a community of people dedicated to creating and maintaining the space. A series of additional THDC and Citywide grants addressed key needs in the garden, including build-out, the installation of a water line, and community-building activities.
To this day, the Serenity Garden is an active community asset, cared for and loved by people in the neighborhood and beyond.
Photos: the progression of the Serenity Garden from a vacant lot to an active community space, thanks to the work of Ms. Amini (seated, in red shirt), scores of community groups, and hundreds of volunteers who connect with the vision for the space.