Former NJM Insurance Group CEO Bernie Flynn was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Mercer Street Friends, a longstanding Trenton-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing issues of poverty in the city and throughout Mercer County. Flynn retired from NJM Insurance Group in April 2018 following a 25-year career, including 10 years as Chief Executive Officer at New Jersey’s venerable auto, home and workers compensation insurance company incorporated in the Capital City in 1913.
Following retirement from the corporate sector, Flynn has remained active as Chairman Emeritus of the Greater Trenton economic development organization, Trustee of the Princeton Area Community Foundation and, as of December 2019, a Trustee of the Corella & Bertram F. Bonner Foundation, a scholarship and service-oriented family foundation.
“Bernie is an outstanding leader who puts his heart and passion into this community and contributes not just through the practice of philanthropy and charitable giving, but through long-term investments of his time, expertise and capital to help those in need,” said Greater Trenton CEO George Sowa.
Drawn to Mercer Street Friends’ commitment to the Community Schools model which fosters partnerships among school and community resources – focused on academics, youth development, family support, health and social services, and community development – Mr. Flynn became a volunteer consultant with the desire to support the mission and long term vision of Mercer Street Friends.
“Through my time as a volunteer consultant, I saw firsthand the dedication of staff to those Mercer Street Friends serves and I was inspired. Mercer Street Friends has been making a positive difference in our community for more than half a century and I look forward to leading the organization into its next chapter,” Flynn said. “Food security, mental and physical health care, counseling, social and emotional learning and strong academic support are all critically important to the overall wellness of our children and their families. It is evident that the Community Schools model in Trenton, led by Mercer Street Friends, is a significant part of the solution.”
“The Board and Staff of Mercer Street Friends are firmly committed to serving those in need in our community. The mission of our organization to address poverty aligns with Bernie’s philanthropic interests,” said Board Chair Dr. Joe Hulihan. “Bernie shares Mercer Street Friends’ belief that removing social and emotional barriers that open the doors to comprehensive academic opportunities for our young people is of primary importance. We are thrilled and grateful that he is willing to take on this leadership responsibility.”
Flynn, as the new Chief Executive Officer, will be supported by Executive Director Armstead Johnson and Deputy Executive Director Dr. Anniesha Walker as members of his Executive Leadership Team. Flynn will contribute his time to the organization as a full time, unpaid employee and will assume the role immediately.
For over six decades Mercer Street Friends has addressed the cyclical issue of hunger and poverty in Mercer County. The organization reaches over 60,000 individuals and families annually and focuses on four core Impact Centers:
- 1. Food Bank Center for Nutritional Health & Wellness – the primary source of government and privately donated food targeted for hunger relief programs throughout Mercer County. In 2019, the Food Bank channeled more than 4.5 million pounds of food to a network of more than 90 food pantries, shelters, soup kitchens, meal sites, senior centers, programs for the disabled and low-income housing sites.
- 2. Community Schools – Mercer Street Friends is the leader in the Community Schools movement in Trenton and one of the most well known in the State of New Jersey. In collaboration with the Trenton Board of Education, Mercer Street Friends has partnered with Luis Munoz Rivera Community Middle School and B.C.Gregory Elementary School working to provide mental and physical health care, social and academic services to promote the wellbeing of students and families and seeking to ensure that children are prepared to learn. A Community School is both a place and a set of partnerships between schools and other community resources with an integrated focus on academics, health and social services, youth and community development and community engagement that leads to improved student learning, stronger families and healthier communities.
- 3. Early Childhood Education – Mercer Street Friends provides a high-quality early childhood education at little to no cost to children ages three to five who reside in Trenton. A staff of certified teachers provide young children with a safe, caring and nurturing environment paired with an innovative curriculum.
- 4. Parent & Family Engagement – offers programs that bring together the community and, most importantly, families to comprehensively address the physical, financial, social/emotional and developmental needs of individuals and families who have experienced trauma. This trauma can be the result of living in persistent poverty, childhood maltreatment, or physical, emotional, sexual abuse. The goal of our programs is to increase parenting skills, improve family stability, and learn skills that improve personal and family resilience.