NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Elijah’s Promise, one of the most well-known soup kitchens in the region, has named Michelle Wilson as its new executive director.
Wilson brings more than 20 years of experience in community development and food security to organization’s top role.
Wilson’s appointment was announced on Jan. 17 by the organization’s board of trustees, along with the designation of Anthony Capece as the associate director. The role was previously held by Wilson until she moved up to executive director.
“We’re going to continue doing what we do, which is to serve our mission, and we’ll be working with the board to continue to serve more people than ever,” Wilson said.
As executive director, Wilson will oversee the organization’s Community Soup Kitchen, Promise Culinary School, the community garden, catering and various social services.
Wilson replaces the previous director, Jim Zullo, who left in August 2017, and will be the agency’s third executive director.
Zullo stepped up to the top role in December 2015, following his predecessor, Lisanne Finston, who held the post for more than 20 years and greatly expanded the organization’s reputation and selection of resources.
The agency offers job training, an overnight shelter and other programs for homeless and low income area residents.
More than 100,000 meals are served a year: seven days a week, 365 days a year.
During the course of more than two decades, Wilson moved around the state and country; wherever her career took her.
She started years ago at the Rutgers University Youth Farm Stand Project as a way to increase urban access to fresh produce.
Later, she oversaw education programming at the New Jersey Community Development Corporation in Paterson, a non-profit organization aimed at providing career and educational opportunities for the city’s 8,000 youth.
She’s been at Elijah’s Promise since 2006, starting as the organization’s development and community relations director, then moving up to associate director in 2014.
“I coordinated our Chef’s Night Fundraiser, strategic plan, overseen communications, some fundraising and the catering department,” Wilson said.
The strategic plan, recently finalized, Wilson said, is to “continue to offer quality job-training, continue to offer the healthiest, best food options.”
Capece, the organization’s new associate director, joined Elijah’s Promise in 2012 as an AmericCorps volunteer, following his master’s degree in sustainability and food systems planning at Rutgers University.
Since then, he’s overseen the culinary school and organization’s community garden, the latter of which sevres roughly 40 guest and resident volunteers.
Capece also took charge with laying the groundwork for Mercado Esperanza; an open air market and quasi-chamber of commerce for businesses and artists in the French Street Corridor.
Once completed, the market, likely to be held at Joyce Kilmer Park starting in April, will host local food and craft vendors, cultural celebrations, artistic programming and networking and education opportunities for residents.