SparkNJ: Igniting One Small Grant at a Time

October 18, 2022

SparkNJ, a newly created New Jersey philanthropic organization whose mission is to support small, Black-led nonprofits, has announced the recipients of its six inaugural grants.

The six recipients are from three New Jersey counties and fulfill a variety of needs in their communities from education to food insecurity to maternal and childcare.

In Morris County, Spring Street CDC, whose programs include Table of Hope, SOAR and Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies, received $7500; Empower the Village, a data-driven nonprofit that seeks to empower Black people, businesses, and community organizations to reach their full potential, received $5,000.

In Passaic County, New Destiny Family Success Centers received $10,000. Their mission is to foster healthy families from diverse backgrounds, reducing isolation and building community. The Centers are community-based, “one-stop” shops that provide wrap-around resources and supports for families before they find themselves in crisis.

Three organizations in Essex County received inaugural SparkNJ grants. F.O.R.T.E. House, which offers reintegration services, socialization, and developmental workshops for formerly incarcerated students, received $5000. Bethany Baptist Church Food Pantry in Newark has been providing emergency food and clothing to those in need for close to 20 years. Religion is not a criterion to receive services. They received a $5000 SparkNJ grant. Men of Essex, one of the oldest African American services organizations in New Jersey, is dedicated to assisting students from Essex County achieve their higher education goal. They received a $2500 grant.

Central to the vision of SparkNJ is that these grants do not require an application from the organizations, but rather rely on an independent nomination process. The Nominators, Black and white women and men who serve as volunteers for one year, are rooted in their communities. They draw SparkNJ’s attention to charitable or civic or community organizations that are already fulfilling their mission. The Nominators attest to the integrity of their nominee and to their value in the community. A team of Selectors reviews all nominations and assures the recipients meet the SparkNJ criteria.

SparkNJ, whose funds reside at The Community Foundation of New Jersey, is led by a team of three Coordinators. Carole Rogers, Morristown, Kathy Teti, Morristown and Lisa Firkser, Springfield, have years of experience in nonprofit management as well as in developing models for philanthropy.

They are now focused on leading SparkNJ into its second year. They are developing a mentoring program to assist the staffs of the organizations nominated for SparkNJ grants. They are reaching out to find new donors and Nominators for the 2023 grant year.

For more information about SparkNJ, about becoming a donor or about volunteering as a Nominator, visit their website at or contact them at