Frank Stilwell 1951-2022
Exemplary Service at Escher (1998-2002)
Frank was a Resident Services Coordinator, but truthfully he was the heartbeat of the Escher SRO Residential community. In his 24 years at Escher, he interacted with over 3,000 formerly homeless individuals and in fact, continued to play a major role in many of their lives. His exemplary dedication was evident to the very end and was looking forward to returning to work upon completion of his hospital stay. Retirement was not an option in his mind. His idea of a vacation would be to spend valuable time at the Mercer County Wildlife Center Friends in Lambertville, NJ as a volunteer helping wildlife that was in need of attention. Among the many animals, he helped his favorite were the raccoons. For most of his years at Escher, Frank cultivated and nurtured the resident farming program with urban garden plots on the property. There were approximately 15 plots in which residents were able to grow a variety of vegetables. His hands-on guidance and gardening techniques enabled residents to grow their own fresh produce to enrich their diets and to sell at the local farmer’s market. With each harvest, there was a sense of accomplishment that radiated pride, self-worth, and success appreciated by all involved. Frank was the point of contact with Isles (Self-Reliant Families and Healthy, Sustainable Communities - Isles, Inc.), an organization that installed and maintained a greenhouse on the property at Escher for many years. The organization, along with residents from Escher SRO, were able to grow numerous vegetable plant seedlings for the Greater Trenton community and the Trenton City Farm. He also was instrumental in facilitating the creation of the City of Trenton’s first urban farm, which is adjacent to the Escher property (A Farm in the City, Providing More Than Food | New Jersey Future (njfuture.org). He was the Escher SRO’s ambassador and liaison to both organizations. His active participation and knowledge were valuable contributions.Frank was proactively involved in the personal lives of many of the residents at Escher, which included but were not limited to, life management skills, crisis intervention, hygiene, housekeeping, etc. When new residents were admitted to the Escher SRO Project, he would conduct a class on personal maintenance, hygiene, housekeeping responsibilities, etc. Many of the residents have been living on the streets and did not have social and home living skills. At a minimum (or more) he would personally conduct monthly room inspections ensuring that the residents maintained their rooms clean and organized, in addition to wellness checks. There would be numerous occasions in which he would be seen physically assisting residents with cleaning and/or organizing their rooms and personal belongings. During the height of the COVID pandemic, Frank frequented Escher at all hours of the day and night monitoring the health and welfare of all the residents and staff. The guidance, dedication, and positive influence that he provided to the countless residents over the many years as they passed through the Escher SRO are beyond measure. I think by now, one would say that Frank did not own a watch or that it was not functioning properly, because he was always involved at Escher, even when he went home! Escher staff would often meet workers in the community who would spontaneously light up and ask, how's Frank! Stories such as, "I used to be homeless, out of jail, and he helped me get my life back together. Now I'm a manager of..." were common. In addition to Frank being a dedicated and valued employee, he was a friend and an extension of our family. He was a force that will be impossible to replace.