January 2020 Reflection

A New Year at CFET

Happy New Year, everyone!

Thank you to those who responded to our annual appeal last month. We welcome the collaborators, both new and not so new, who join us in the “great work” of transformation in the “invincible” city of Camden, NJ, in the neighborhood of Waterfront South. Changes are underway at CFET; we’re excited to share them with you.

We are in transition at CFET, as our executive director, Teresa Niedda left at the end of August. All of us at CFET have had to step up to fill her shoes, as we engage in the process of identifying exactly how we intend to move forward. One of the big changes is that I have been elected to once again chair the board of trustees of this wonderful organization. I stepped off the board in January 2016, and then came back in February. John Levy had finished his three year term, and has decided to step away from the board, though serve as legal consultant. A big thanks goes to John for his leadership and steady hand over the last three years.

As one of the founders, I thought when I stepped down back in 2016 that I would serve as a volunteer for CFET, but that is not the plan that God, or my fellow board members(!), had for me. I am excited to be back, and looking forward to positioning CFET for the next ten years. It is amazing to me that we are entering our 13th year of existence. When we began, sitting around a kitchen table, we had no idea what we were getting into. I’m a bit wiser, but I’m also very aware of my limitations and ignorance.  It is a team effort to run an institution like CFET. And we have a great team, that is going to grow even greater in the months to come.

The team starts with Jon Compton, who is now the Program Director of CFET. His former position of urban farmer/educator has been modified to represent the increased responsibilities that he has assumed. He continues to be responsible for the farming and youth program, but he is also writing grants, serving as the face of CFET at community gatherings, and supervising two staff persons.  Britani Nester serves as the Youth Wellness Coordinator; her primary responsibilities have to do with facilitating the youth program, though she is involved in a few other projects, including grant writing.  Kate Cruz is our Environmental Justice Coordinator. Her primary responsibilities include pursuing and maintaining connections with institutions across the city of Camden, establishing partnerships to support the immersion experience, and developing curricula for the immersion experiences.

We also have a dedicated board. We are adding three new board members in the next month, and I’ll introduce them to you in the February newsletter. Currently serving on the board in addition to me are Cathy Nevins, Erika Schellinger and Rose Alemi. During 2019 several board members had to step away due to health and family issues. With the influx of energy and new ideas from the three new members, I am confident that we are well positioned for the strategic planning and operational visioning that needs to be done to move forward with continued success.

Our goal is to build on our successes, so that we are sustainable and faithful to our mission. I understand our programming to be in three areas. First, we will have a very successful youth program, built around our gardens and orchards. It will not only provide a fair wage to Camden youth, but also provide them an opportunity to learn the entire process of growing and preparing food, but they will also develop skills transferable to all work spaces. We will continue to have a farmer’s market, to develop our own hot sauce and honey, and to find ways to open up the garden space to community members who want to grow their own food.

Second, we will revise what we now call our Immersion Experience Program. Those young people, and not so young, will spend a weekend or week with us and have an experience built around five pillars: interdependence, environmental justice leadership, sustainable living, community sovereignty and transformative action. People will come and work with community members, gaining intellectual and ethical understanding, and the relevant skills to be allies and activists in their local and regional communities.

Third, CFET will become a resource for the Waterfront South community. We will be an ally with our neighbors when it comes to the environmental stresses on our neighborhood. We will support organizational and communal initiatives that seeks justice for a people so long the recipients of injustice.

This is all in process, in one way or the other, but it builds on the last 13 years of effort and success. We ask for your support.

An important goal that we have is to expand the number of individuals and/or businesses that partner with us in advance our mission. We particularly want to increase the number of individuals who make a financial contribution. It is amazing to see what happens when lots of people provide a “bit.” To make that happen we need your help. You receive this newsletter, you can forward it on to friends. You can make a pitch; encourage them to include CFET in their philanthropic plans. Helping us with this effort would be a great gift to CFET.

We also need your prayers, your hands and sweat when necessary, and your story-telling.  Please keep us in your thoughts as we enter this new year! You are in ours, and together, transformation is possible!


Mark Doorley, Ph.D.

Chair, Board of Trustees

The Center for Environmental Transformation