Who We Are

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120 East State was formed in April 2022 to create The Steeple Center in the heart of Trenton.

Our purpose is to transform the First Presbyterian Church complex in the heart of Trenton into a community-centered performing arts venue, an engine of economic development, and an opportunity for local empowerment giving voice, space, and welcome to our neighbors. As the  steeple of this historic church has stretched high above the downtown skyline signaling hope and mission, today we seek to redirect the path laid 300 years ago and create a symbol of shared vision in the community.

Our Values

First Presbyterian Church, in the heart of Trenton, has served the community for 300 years. We envision a renovated multipurpose complex to continue and broaden the legacy of service to our current neighbors and to those we will meet at the Steeple Center in the years to come.

The heart of Trenton is unique – a government center, but the home to thousands of people who seek a place to be safe and heard. The Steeple Center is a resource and a place that can welcome, serve, and enrich our community and in turn  be broadened and enriched by our community.

The Steeple Center will use its unique location and footprint to provide a home for non-profit and for-profit enterprises that will invest and be woven into the fabric of the community. Together, the Steeple Center and these enterprises will serve as vehicles to create economic opportunities for their neighbors and inspire new investment in downtown Trenton.

The community surrounding the Steeple Center has evolved over three centuries. The Steeple Center will be a place where all members of that evolving community are welcomed and empowered to build a relationship with us and a more vibrant and just city. There is much to do, and we welcome all voices, vision and partnership.

Belief and Hope
The Steeple Center is based on the belief that challenges should never stop us from imagining a better tomorrow, the “infinite hope” of which Dr. King spoke. From belief and hope come action and from action comes a transformed present and future. The steps we take today will change the arc of our community and, alongside our partners, we will challenge – and change – long-held perceptions of Trenton and what is possible by creating educational, economic, and artistic opportunities.

Meet Our Board

Cherry Oakley – Board President

Cherry chairs the 120 East State Board of Directors. She is the current Executive
Director of Support Coordination at Neighbours, Inc, where she leads a team of statewide facilitators that helps New Jerseyans with disabilities. She works closely with government systems, local communities, and service organizations towards values-driven transformation. She has been a founding board member of several nonprofits that focus on the health, healing, and wellness of those marginalized by society or living in urban communities.

Cynthia Vandenberg – Board Member

Cynthia is a long-time resident of Trenton who specializes in strategic grant writing and communications for non-profits. She currently works at TASK (Trenton Area Soup Kitchen). Cynthia also serves on the Board of Trustees at Princeton Friends School and on the Inclusion Oversight Committee at George School.

Danica Curcic – Board Member

Danica has spent over two decades as an professional Executive, managing
Operations, Human Resources and Business applications for Retail companies
across North America. She is entrepreneurial and results-driven, with an extensive
history in managing emerging businesses, and forging valuable relationships. She is
a respected leader with a talent for effectively uniting cross-functional teams across multiple organizational levels to drive profitability, productivity, and growth. She is
accomplished in implementing effective strategies to meet and exceed all goals and
objectives, while upholding corporate missions.

Ira Lackey – Board Member

Ira is a real estate professional affiliated with Callaway Henderson Sotheby’s International Realty in Princeton. Having majored in English at Wake Forest University, Ira previously worked in services and sales for an international software concern, in accounting for governmental reporting with a local financial services giant, and more recently with a Princeton-based architectural firm. 

He’s passionate about community service and currently serves on the board of Housing Initiatives of Princeton, a provider of transitional housing and emergency rental assistance for families facing imminent homelessness; HIP provides financial and social services (counseling) which generally changes the trajectory of their clients’ lives. Ira has served as a trustee of Princeton Junior School for many years and his only daughter, Courtland, graduated from Princeton Day School, having attended since kindergarten. He has also served on the vestry of Trinity Church, Princeton.

Jane Malloy – Board Treasurer

Jane Malloy is a lifelong resident of Trenton with a passion for community service. In
2003, Jane founded Exercise, Eat Always Together (EEAT, Inc), a registered 501(c)3 that addressed obesity and overweight in children and adolescents. Outside of her community work, Jane has more than thirty years of foreign and public policy analytical and research experience with the United States Department of State and as a private consultant. 

She currently runs her own professional writing consultancy, That’s Write, LLC serving both domestic and foreign clientele in a variety of writing and foreign policy services. She is a trustee of the Trenton Museum Society (TMS) and has served as a volunteer with Project Literacy, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Boys and Girls Club of America, the Special Olympics Committee, the U.S. Department of State Mentor program and Trenton Reads, and serves as an elder at First Presbyterian Church of Trenton.

Jean Bickal – Board Member 

Jean graduated from Bryn Mawr College, received an MA in history from Emory
University and a law degree from Seton Hall Law School. She spent much of her career in the State of NJ Department of Banking & Insurance, retiring as the Assistant Director, Division of Insurance. 

She is a long-time resident of Trenton’s Mill Hill neighborhood and is active with the Old Mill Hill Society (the neighborhood association). She serves on the City of Trenton’s Landmarks Commission. She is a member of the Capital Singers, a Community Chorus in Trenton and serves as a Trustee and Vice Chair for Finance on the Board of the chorus. She is also an Elder
with the First Presbyterian Church of Trenton and is Co-Treasurer of the Church.

Jeffrey Vamos – Board Vice President

Jeff is currently the Pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville where he has served since April of 2005. He grew up in Elkhart, Indiana, received his BA from Duke University and his M.Div from Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

After serving two congregations in Brooklyn, NY, he served the First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto, CA for eleven years. During his ministry there he was deeply immersed in community organizing, work culminating in the creation of a $24 million housing and services center for homeless persons. He received his Doctor of Ministry degree from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC.

Latarsha Burke – Board Member

Since 2014 Latarsha Burke has served as CEO/Executive Director of the African American Cultural Collaborative of Mercer County formerly known as the Trenton African American Cultural Festival. The organization’s mission is to “Improve the quality of life for our community through arts, education, and culture. 

To provide opportunities for diverse families to come together in a positive, safe environment to build communities through collaboration across cultures. Mrs. Burke is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Epsilon Upsilon Omega Chapter and serves as Board Member to the New Jersey Black Women’s Collective.

Mark Herr – Board Member

Mark Herr provides strategic advice to CEOs and Fortune 100 companies. A lawyer by training and a former member of the Whitman Administration, he began his career as a reporter, before entering politics as a speechwriter for Gov. Thomas H. Kean.

Mr. Herr is a graduate of Colgate and Columbia Universities and the Seton Hall
University School of Law.

Mike Whittington – Board Secretary 

Mike Whittington is the Program Manager for Planning & Placemaking on Isles’ Community Planning & Development Team, where they support projects centering development, community relations, grantor-grantee relations, beautification, and training.

Previously, Mike had been employed at Georgetown University and Center
for Supportive Schools in various roles supporting community engagement and organizing.

Currently, Mike is the Company Manager of Tha Block Trenton Inc. While attending Georgetown University, Mike studied Biochemistry with a Minor in Japanese Language & Culture.

Nancy Livingston – Board Member

Nancy has been a resident of Trenton since 1999 and currently serves as Vice-President of the Cadwalader Heights Civic Association. She graduated from UCLA with a degree in history and earned a Masters in Education from Syracuse University as a National Teacher Corps intern. She was an elementary educator for 33 years and retired in 2015 after teaching for 25 years at Littlebrook School in Princeton. She has worked for 29 years as a staff member with the National SEED Project, which prepares leaders to facilitate seminars that drive social change within their schools and institutions.

Meet Our Staff

Molly Dykstra – Project Leader

The Rev. Molly Dykstra is the founding staff member of 120 East State. As Project Leader, Molly has been executing all aspects of the organization’s mission to preserve, steward and operate First Presbyterian Church of Trenton’s property for community benefit. Together with Historic Building Architects, Michael Goldstein, and other consultants, Molly leads the planning and development of the Steeple Center, writes and manages grants, supports the Board, engages with the community, collaborates and partners with other nonprofit organizations, and manages finances and property.

Beginning in 2019, Molly served in a transitional pastoral role with First Presbyterian Church, bridging between the church and the newly formed 120 East State in 2022. Molly was pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church, Trenton from 2014-2019, previously serving congregations in Mexico City, Mexico; Dubuque, Iowa; and in various capacities across central New Jersey, including Moderator of the former Presbytery of New Brunswick.

A native of northern California, Molly has called Mercer County home since 1997, living in Princeton with her husband, the Rev. Dr. Robert Dykstra, professor in Pastoral Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. For approximately 10 years, she was sole proprietor of Green Paper Cup, a small commercially compostable disposables company, seeking to elevate the local conversation around single-use plastics. She was a 2019 GreenFaith Fellow, and holds a M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a B.A. from the University of California, Davis. 


Molly currently chairs the Mercer County COAD (Community Organizations Active in Disaster), is a member of the Old Trenton Neighborhood Preservation Planning Stakeholder Team, participates in the United Mercer Interfaith Organization, and serves Coastlands Presbytery (PCUSA) where she is pastoral member of the Commission On Ministry.

Michael Goldstein – Business & Strategic Planning

Michael Goldstein, Business & Strategic Planning ConsultantMichael Goldstein specializes in redevelopment, business, and marketing issues in transitional urban markets. He began working with the First Presbyterian Church of Trenton in September 2021 helping to define the operating and financing strategy now being pursued by 120 East State.

In 2006, Michael co-founded HHG Development Associates, a Trenton-focused real-estate development company that specialized in historic redevelopment, and created the 138-unit Roebling Lofts. This was a $40 million renovation project financed with NJ Multi-Family ERG and Federal Historic Tax Credits. With HHG, Michael was principally responsible for business development including finance and marketing.

He created the website, HiddenTrenton.com, for many years the premiere lifestyle guide to the City of Trenton, featured in the New York Times. From the website’s founding in 2006 until COVID curtailed the site’s activities in 2020, Michael tracked essentially every new consumer business venture that opened in the City of Trenton, with special focus on the best new restaurants, cafés, and retail establishments.

Real Estate was a second career for Michael. Prior to HHG, Michael was an experienced chief executive of venture-backed software companies (he was founding-CEO of Voxware, taking it public in 1996) and a management consultant, working 7 years in the New York office of McKinsey & Company advising Information Technology providers and users.

Michael holds an MBA with Distinction from the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration, and a Sc.B. from Brown University.

He is married to June Ballinger, Producing Artistic Director emeritus of Passage Theatre Company, Trenton’s professional, Equity theatre company.

During 1992-93, Michael served as Acting Chairman of the Board for New York’s Ensemble Studio Theatre at a time of acute financial crisis (and where his wife was an actor-member). EST, then as now, is one of the top developmental theatres in the country, surviving the crisis. Michael helped stabilize the company, rebuilt the board, refocused the budget priorities, and helped recruit a new managing director.

Michael lived in the Mill Hill neighborhood of Trenton from 2003 until 2022.