Wayne Taylor, founder of the Fish Foundation, which has just opened an office in the new Village Center in Plainsboro, knows the meaning of the word poor. Growing up in a tough Brooklyn neighborhood, he learned a lot of lessons about the value of helping himself in a world that offered little promise for most. His parents, both Jamaican immigrants, taught him about hard work and social responsibility — his father was a superintendent in a Brooklyn project, his mother a welfare case worker.
His savior was education. Thanks to his parents’ efforts — and their belief that good education is the expressway to a better life — he graduated from Yale with a history degree in 1996. He also earned a master’s in African American studies from Columbia in 2004. With the twin bullets of education and hard work under his belt, Taylor set off on a journalism career that took him to the online news worlds of ABC and MSNBC in New York, and ultimately to writing for “Good Morning, America.”
Then Hurricane Katrina buried New Orleans. Moved by the plight of the hurricane victims and angered by the molasses pace at which the federal government moved to intervene, Taylor decided that he had to help. He started simply, collecting cans to help raise money to rebuild lives in New Orleans. But soon, he says, he realized something: “You can’t live off the charity of others forever.”
So Taylor set out to give people whose lives were upended by the hurricane the tools to build a new life. He founded the Fish Foundation, a Manhattan-based enterprise with a satellite office on Market Street in Plainsboro, whose name is taken from the concept that teaching a person to fish yields far more lasting benefits than does handing him a fish. The foundation began (and continues) with the craigslist.com-inspired FISHnet.
FISHnet is an online repository of agencies and organizations that lead people to education, nutritional assistance, psychological help, and financial literacy — the four corners of the foundation’s approach to helping the poor. The aim is to invest in the education and re-education of the poor in America by giving them the tools to improve their own lives.
Less a portal for the poor themselves (Taylor is aware, after all, that the very poor usually do not have computers and Internet access), FISHnet seeks to connect those who want to help with agencies that actually can. Fish Foundation is not, therefore, an agency that directly helps, Taylor says, but one that points people in the direction of organizations that offer various levels of assistance. He refers to the process of “cutting out the middleman” and connecting people directly with organizations that provide help.
Most of the charities and organizations listed with the foundation concentrate on rebuilding New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Taylor says that though it has been three years since Katrina, areas destroyed by the storm are still struggling because the public has moved on and donations have greatly diminished. “It’s not much better there,” he says. “The projects are still closed, the hospitals down. There’s no economic development.”
Taylor says the foundation is looking to expand its focus beyond the Gulf Coast, but for now that expansion is aimed at cities known to have inherited many of Katrina’s survivors. Houston and Atlanta are two of the most heavily effected cities and are high on Fish Foundation’s radar. “We’re working on clinics and remote help to combat the stigma of poverty,” he says.
Taylor says that Fish Foundation is hoping to convince the well-off that helping the poor help themselves is a sound investment. “If we invested more in the American people, it would work a lot better here,” he says. — Scott Morgan
Fish Foundation, 6 Market Street, Suite 922, Plainsboro 08536; 347-277-3782; fax, 718-554-7225. Wayne Taylor, founder. fishfoundation.org.
New in Town
DbCom Consulting Inc., 666 Plainsboro Road, Suite 1161, Plainsboro 08536; 732-404-0100. Pravin Khanolkar, president and CEO. Home page: www.dbcominc.com.
DbCom Consulting, provider of IT services and training for the financial industry, has moved its New Jersey offices to Plainsboro. The firm, founded in 1994 and headquartered in India, moved to the area from Woodbridge.
Pravin Khanolkar, a former software developer at Charle Schwab and one-time vice president of Robertson Stephans, a computer software company, is DbCom’s president and CEO. Khanolkar earned his master’s in chemical and electrical engineering from Bradley University in 1988.
Saransh Inc., 666 Plainsboro Road, Suite 1185, Plainsboro 08536; 609-716-1630; fax, 609-716-1633. Sridhar Chimaladinne, president. www.saranshtech.com.
Saransh Inc., an IT services and consulting firm, has opened an office on Plainsboro Road.
American United Life Insurance Company, 103 Carnegie Center, Princeton; 609-720-1424. Michael O’Connell, regional sales director, retirement services. www.retirement.aul.com.
The Indianapolis-based pension services firm has closed its offices at the Carnegie Center. Calls are being taken by the Philadelphia regional office at 1010 Stoney Hill Road, Suite 325, Yardley PA 19067. 215-579-1470, fax 215-579-1875.
Group Five, 71 Albany Street, New Brunswick 08901; 732-815-4291; fax, 732-815-4292. Terry White, president. www.groupfiveinc.com.
Group Five, a customer satisfaction market research firm, has moved from its Airport Place location to New Brunswick. This is the second move for Group Five since 2001, when it operated on Tamarack Circle. It moved to Airport Place in 2006. The firm employs 16.
Lorven Technologies Inc., 101 Morgan Lane, Suite 209, Plainsboro 08536; 609-918-9607; fax, 609-918-9608. Bala Shan, president & CEO. www.lorventech.com.
Lorven Technologies, a seven-year-old software consulting firm, has moved its offices from Princeton-Hightstown Road.
Nova Photonics Inc., 200 Forrestal Road, Princeton 08540; 609-243-3463; fax, 609-243-2418. Fred Levinton, president. www.novaphotonics.com.
Nova Photonics Inc., researcher and developer of advanced plasma diagnostics, has moved its operations from 1 Oak Place to Forrestal Center. The move comes almost a year after the company received a $50,000 SBIR grant from the state Commission On Science & Technology.
Amy G. Zagoria, 61, on May 20. She was a marriage and family therapist at Trinity Counseling Services in Princeton.
Roger O’Neill, 50, on May 8. A biologist, he developed the reagent chemistry used by both the NIH and Celera in their race to sequence the human genome. His late father, Gerard K. O’Neill, a physics professor at Princeton, was a pioneer in the science surrounding space colonization. His stepmother, Tasha O’Neill, is a photographer in Princeton.
A memorial service for Robert Fagles will be held on Thursday, May 29, at 3 p.m. at the Chancellor Green Rotunda on the Princeton campus. Fagles, a translator of Greek classics and a member of the Princeton University faculty from 1960 to 2002, died on March 26.