Barry Cole admits it up front — he didn’t know what to expect and he was a little nervous. Here he was, director of Mercer Street Friends, the Trenton-based social services agency, giving the green light to a couple of untested college students who said they wanted to do a video project for the organization as part of a semester-long assignment.
He didn’t know what they had in mind and he didn’t know what the results would be. He just took a deep breath and let them go to work.
What ended up on Cole’s desk six months later was “a marvelous 18-minute-long film” that incorporated MSF’s entire range of services. And Cole says the production, which did not cost MSF a cent, already has become a staple for his organization’s promotional and educational efforts.
The project dates back to April, 2007, when two Mercer County Community College professors, Barry Levy and Steve Voorhees, contacted MSF with the idea to shoot a video for a charity in the county, as a class project. The objective: Show the inner workings of a many-faceted charitable organization. It was welcome news to Cole, who says MSF had considered investing in a promotional video before, but was dissuaded by the $15,000 price tag.
Donnoli and Kanig interviewed department heads, went to class rooms, met people being helped by the organization, and met home health aides on the job. MSF offers about 30 health and human services, from a food bank to adult literacy education. And the students, says Cole, hit them all. Donnoli and Kanig handed over their finished product last December.
Almost immediately the video became an internal training and orientation tool. It had achieved something no one expected, or even had thought about before seeing it, Cole says.
In offering an inside view of each facet of MSF’s operation, the video made the entire organization cohesive. Home care workers were suddenly able to see what the food bank was doing, and the food bank, in turn, was able to see what the counselors were doing, and so on. In one fell swoop, the students united the array of services under one idea.
“It helps unify us as a total package,” Cole says.
MSF has used the video as a thank-you to donors as well, and has sent it to foundations with requests for proposals. At one of the organization’s periodic “Lunch and Learn” programs, attendees were treated to a viewing. Overall, says Cole, the production has made branding Mercer Street Friends much easier. People can see the organization as a whole, not just a collection of departments.
Cole grew up in Bronx, gaining his bachelor’s in psychology from SUNY Buffalo in 1966 and his doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Connecticut in 1972.
After teaching at Temple, Cole worked with the developmentally disabled and ran a private practice. In the early 1990s he joined Catholic Charities, eventually becoming associate executive director. He has directed MSF for about four years.
MCCC’s television department can be reached at 609-586-4800.