NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Elijah’s Promise, which operates one of the region’s largest soup kitchens and a number of other social services, has named Michelle Wilson its third Executive Director.
The non-profit organization's Board of Trustees appointed Wilson to the post at its January meeting.
She brings over two decades of experience in community development and food security to her new role.
Wilson, an East Brunswick resident, began her career with Elijah’s Promise over a decade ago, as she took over in 2006 as its development and community relations director.
“We are very pleased that Michelle will lead Elijah’s Promise at the point in our history,” said Marylynn Matacera, President of the Board of Trustees. “Her exemplary dedication to the organization, its staff and the community made her the ideal choice to lead us into the future and continue our essential work in promoting food security and social justice, as well as continuing the programs that help our community survive and thrive.”
In addition to her time at Elijah’s Promise, Wilson has held the title of Director of Educational Programming for the New Jersey Community Development Corporation (NJCDC) and held positions in development and education throughout New Jersey and the Washington, D.C. area.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in American studies and master’s in education from Rutgers and previously served as the statewide coordinator for the Rutgers University Youth Farmstand Project.
The Board of Trustees also promoted Anthony Capece, who formerly served as planning director, to associate director.
Capece joined Elijah’s Promise in 2012 as an AmeriCorps volunteer after earning a Master’s in Sustainability and Food Systems Planning at Rutgers University’s Bloustein School.
He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies from the SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry and has overseen the Promise Culinary School and Promise Agriculture. He gas also directed the agency’s grants, including securing a national Kresge Foundation FreshLo Grant for planning and implementing the Mercado Esperanza in New Brunswick.
Capece replaced Wilson, who served as Elijah’s Promise’s Associate Director since 2014, overseeing its Community Kitchen operation on Neilson Street and the organization’s Promise Catering service, and coordinating fundraising activities including the highly successful annual Chef’s Night and Race Against Hunger.
She said the soup kitchen’s greatest accomplishment in her tenure is that each year the number of meals served has continued to climb.
According to Wilson, Elijah’s Promise served over 900 more meals in January of 2018 than in the first month of 2017. She added that it takes the effort of the entire staff and the community for Elijah’s Promise to provide its many services to the local area.
“Elijah’s Promise has always been a team and community effort and I look forward to working together to continue fulfilling our mission of using food to change lives,” Wilson said.
Wilson took over for Jim Zullo, who left the organization in the fall of 2017 after just over three years in the top job.
"I have made the decision to step down as ED from Elijahs Promise to return to my previous work in urban planning and consulting," Zullo told New Brunswick Today in August 2017. "It has been a true privilege to serve as executive director of Elijah’s Promise over the past three and a half years and to work with the agency’s committed staff, board of directors, community partners and supporters."
Wilson will oversee the broad range of services that Elijah’s Promise has to offer, including:
- its community soup kitchen, which serves over 100,000 meals every year
- the Promise Culinary School, a state-certified cooking and baking program that trains under-employed and unemployed individuals for careers in the food service industry
- Promise Catering, which prepares meals for seniors
- Let’s Cook!, which offers free nutritional classes for city residents
- Promise Agriculture, a collection of community gardens located throughout the city.
Elijah’s Promise has served the local area since its opened its doors in 1989, when three New Brunswick churches who initially founded the non-profit soup kitchen.
Editor's Note: Dave Schatz contributed to this article.