Blackwell named new chair of Mercer Street Friends

Ken Blackwell, CEO of InKlaritas in Princeton, was unanimously approved as the new chair of the board of trustees of Mercer Street Friends.

Mercer Street Friends is a Trenton-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing issues of poverty in the city and throughout Mercer County. Longtime New Jersey executive Bernie Flynn serves as CEO of the organization.

Joining Blackwell on the team of board officers are Glenda Gracia-Rivera as vice chair, Wendy B. Kane as secretary and Jaap Ketting as treasurer.

Blackwell has a long history with Mercer Street Friends. He came to the organization as a volunteer board member in 2017, but he knew about Mercer Street Friends for over 32 years.

“As a member of Yardley Friends Meeting, I was introduced to Mercer Street Friends as we gathered gloves, scarves and hats in December to contribute to families served by the agency,” he said. “I saw firsthand the good work of the food bank and now am witness to the impact of our programs focused on food, families and education.

“It is an honor to serve as chair of Mercer Street Friends board of trustees, and I look forward to helping our staff and volunteers expand awareness within our communities about the power of Mercer Street Friends’ programs and the resources we offer to those seeking a life of independence and self- sufficiency.”

Flynn expressed enthusiasm about the new board leadership and offered his gratitude to Joseph Hulihan, the outgoing chair.

“The position of a nonprofit board of trustees member is built on confidence in the organization’s mission, trust in the staff leadership, belief in the programs and an understanding that each member is critical to the success of the organization,” Flynn said.

“Joe Hulihan has helped lead us through this challenging time and I am certain that Ken, Glenda, Wendy and Jaap will work hand in hand with me and our executive leadership team to ensure that Mercer Street Friends is addressing the needs of our neighbors in Trenton and throughout the county, and I thank them for taking on their new leadership roles.”

A Trenton native, Gracia-Rivera is the director of professional development and training at Rutgers Center for Women and Work. She came to know Mercer Street Friends in 1990 as a high school senior at Princeton Day School. An intern at the time, Gracia-Rivera embraced the holistic mission of Mercer Street Friends and has remained committed to the organization’s education focused programs.

“As an educator and trainer that focuses on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, the Mercer Street Friends Trenton Community School initiative resonates with me as a unique model,” she said. “It offers a powerful framework for addressing inequities and provides opportunities to help students navigate barriers so they can thrive not just academically, but mentally, socially and emotionally.”

Kane is a frequent volunteer at Mercer Street Friends Food Bank and Preschool. She has been a board member since 2014 and, in addition to her new duties as secretary, Wendy serves as the chair of the Development Committee.

Ketting continues in his role as treasurer of the organization. He also has been a board member since 2014 and is chair of the Finance and Audit Committee.