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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Anyone familiar with the non-profit organization Elijah’s Promise, and its extensive efforts in New Brunswick, is well aware of the incredible accomplishments of departing former Director, Lisanne Finston.
Finston has been a force for good in New Brunswick for over twenty years, building Elijah’s Promise reputation as one of the most successful food policy programs in New Jersey.
According to a New Brunswick Patch article, Finston relocated to Massachusetts to serve in a similar capacity with a residential treatment center for people with mental illness.
Strengthened by her leadership, Elijah’s Promise grew from a single soup kitchen to become a highly-revered nonprofit organization serving thousands in Central New Jersey through a variety of programs.
The soup kitchen serves hundreds of free, nutritious meals every day while the Promise Culinary School, serves as the organization’s education and job training wing, offering training in the culinary field.
The non-profit also leads local food and social enterprise movements in New Brunswick, including community gardens, such as the Shiloh Community Garden, a Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) program, and research projects that examine the accessibility of healthy food in New Brunswick neighborhoods.
Additionally, the organization distributes meals, blankets, coats and hygiene kits in Middlesex County, and social services through its HEART program (Homeless Empowerment Action Response Team) and “Code Blue,” which opens the soup kitchen as a shelter to the city’s homeless on dangerously cold nights.
Finston’s focus on food policy sparked the creation of the New Brunswick Community Food Alliance, whose mission is to “ensure that all New Brunswick residents have access to nutritious, safe, affordable, and culturally appropriate food at all times.”
Colleagues said that Finston’s everyday interactions with the people around were what made her special, and enabled her to be a successful community builder.
According to Chef Pam Johnson, Finston helped her become a better person by telling her not to “sweat the small stuff.”
Johnson emphasized how Finston embodies the belief that everyone deserves a chance, no matter what their past.
“The best advice she gave me was to believe in myself and to go take the GED test,” Chef Johnson explained. “She loved and cared for people at all levels, but paid special attention to the underdog!”
Johnson also said that Finston never held a grudge against anyone: “There are people I know who have done her wrong but she still finds it in her heart to forgive and move past it.”
Asked to give three words to describe Linston, Chef Johnson enthusiastically provided, “Awesome, brilliant, phenomenal. Best Boss Lady ever!”
Not only compassionate, Finston was notoriously humble.
“One time I can remember her taking the heaped up trash piled around our full dumpster all by herself,” Johnson added. “She never wanted to steal the spotlight from anyone, just humbly working her way; that’s who she is.”
Lisanne cared about the community and didn’t care if she got recognized. According to Urban Agriculture & Food Systems Coordinator, Anthony Capece, Linston was self-deprecating and always ready to make a joke about herself to keep others laughing.
“Lisanne brought immense humility to Elijah’s Promise. She treated everyone with the same respect. People love her because she made everyone feel welcome”
Capece added, “She obviously accomplished many great things, but what was really special was here ability to bring people together.”
Finston treated everyone as equals, whether they were former drug addicts or City Council members, they all received her attention and respect and warmth.
Capece explained, “Lisanne is the type of person who would stay late at tutoring centers and work with the students. She was without presumption and always gave people a chance.”
This ability to unite people allowed Finston to establish organizations that have had a longstanding impact on the City of New Brunswick. She has influenced the lives of thousands of people and provided models for other food programs in much larger cities, including Trenton and Camden.
A successor has yet to be announced by the non-profit.
Although her departure will be felt, Capece is excited about the future of the organization, “Lisanne looked at her departure as a sort of passing of the torch. Everyone who has worked with her is inspired by her efforts and Elijah’s Promise is looking forward to what the future will bring.”