ELIZABETH—On Wednesday, July 8, a consortium of non-profits, AmeriCorps Summer of Service volunteer members, and youth from the Elizabeth area were joined by volunteers from Yonkers, N.Y, for a day of community service along the Elizabeth River.
The event was the result of a call to community service requested by President Barack Obama, the state Summer of Service Program, in conjunction with the National Park Service-Groundwork USA Green Team Summer Program.
Before going out to clean the river, the combined group of over 50 youth and adults listened to the President’s call to serve message, which is available to the public on serve.gov. The day’s activities included team-building activities led by Curt Collier of Groundwork USA.
The President’s message was a request for individuals and groups to take ownership of their communities by making personal commitments. President Obama said, “This summer I am calling on all of you to make volunteerism and community service a part of your daily life and the life of the nation”.
Catherine Saintilien, executive director of Jefferson Park Ministries, and Alex Elie, Americorps program director, reached out to local non-profit organizations in mid-June as soon as the call for service announcement became official.
“Jefferson Park Ministries, Inc. is facing an increasing demand for services, and volunteers can help us fill this growing need,” said Saintilien. “We are pleased to participate in United We Serve and thank the President for making this call to service this summer and beyond.”
Elie brought van loads of AmeriCorps volunteers engaged in a Summer of Service and local youth from the Jefferson Park Ministries Summer Program to the gathering point, at the Peterstown Community Center, and supervised them during the cleanup.
Executive Director Jonathan Phillips of the Groundwork program is planning continued joint programs in Elizabeth for the summer and beyond.
“While community service starts at home, the result of small improvements are magnified as the word gets out. Our relationship with the National Park Service allows the Groundwork organization to bring the local message to the next level”.
New Jersey Secretary of State Nina Mitchell Wells congratulated the Elizabeth AmeriCorps programs for responding to the President’s call to service and for bringing a wide range of service and environmental groups together.
“It is so important to engage our young people in beautifying the urban areas of our state. Our environment is fragile and should be nurtured while in our care, for the wellbeing of future generations. Together we can protect and celebrate it,” she said. “This is New Jersey’s third AmeriCorps Summer of Service and it fits perfectly with President Obama’s vision of how we all can contribute to our communities, our state, and our nation.”
Although the President’s call to service program lasts only until mid-September, members of the non-profit consortium continue to advocate for yearlong community service to fulfill their agencies objectives.
According to James Horne of the United Way of Greater Union County, “opportunities on our website www.unitedwayvolunteers.org will now be pulled on to the www.serve.gov website. We look forward to working with these partners to facilitate volunteerism in Elizabeth and throughout Union County.”
More than 60 bags of trash consisting of everything from bottles, papers, plastic bags, and car tires were collected. Groundwork offered a prize for the most unusual piece collected, and the winning piece, a fifteen foot long ventilation hose, was found atop the flood control berm in Union County’s Mattano Park.
Elizabeth youth, volunteers from Yonkers, and Summer of Service AmeriCorps members work to clean the banks of the Elizabeth River, future site of the Elizabeth River Trail. (Photo courtesy of Groundwork Elizabeth)
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