HIGHLAND PARK, NJ—Two of the major "social enterprise" programs sponsored by the Brunswick-based non-profit organization Elijah's Promise closed for good in February.
The organization, which started as the city's only soup kitchen, had grown into much more over the years.
The two projects to close, Better World Café and Better World Market, were both located outside of New Brunswick, in Highland Park and Franklin Township, respectively.
But officials say the closures are "strategic" and come in response to "increasing demands in our core operations."
"Over the last several months, Elijah's Promise has seen steady growth in the number of guests seeking meals, social services and emergency shelter at our Community Soup Kitchen," wrote Jim Zullo, the non-profit's Executive Director.
"We have been allocating additional resources to meet this demand. To this end, a strategic decision has been made with the board's approval to consolidate our operations."
"This strategic move will allow us to strengthen our programming within our soup kitchen, culinary school, social services, contract catering, urban agriculture and community advocacy."
The Better World Market, located in neighboring Franklin Township, closed after just a couple years on February 21.
"That sucks," said one source who often volunteers at the non-profit. "The market was doomed from the start though. [Zullo] didn't really think that one through."
"It was so out of the way from people who know about EP and would want to go there that it never got a strong customer base."
The Better World Café was open for its last day on March 4.
"The cafe needed the kind of marketing that the market got and a location of its own," said our source. "If they had gotten a space on [Route] 27… they would have done a phenomenonal business, but they were hidden in the back of the church with very little signage."
Still, Zullo said there is a possibility that the out-of-town "Better World" projects may continue someday under a different arrangement.
"These ventures may continue operating under new ownership and management. We will update you with additional information as it becomes available," said Zullo.
"We are immensely grateful to all our partners, patrons, and volunteers for your wonderful support and we look forward to working with you as we continue to fulfill our mission to fight hunger and poverty in our community and to use food to change lives in new and innovative ways."
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick.