Volunteering in Newark


This past Saturday in Newark, NJ, members of SCA’s Newark Community Crew spent a day off from school creating a green space in their neighborhood. Helped by local volunteers and staff from Prudential Financial and the Greater Newark Conservancy (GNC), students worked to convert a small unused residential lot into a community garden.

A couple months ago, the small gap between 291 and 297 South 7th St. was heavily overgrown with weeds and littered with trash. After the two Community Crews were finished with the area this past summer, the lot was cleared, leveled, graded and ready for Saturday’s project.

Volunteers pulled weeds and spread soil and mulch over the garden site, removing any remaining trash along the way. Planters were assembled and flowers planted, and little by little, the lot on South 7th St started to look more and more like a garden.

Carlos Hidalgo from the GNC had high hopes for the project, but added, “When the community starts using [the garden], that’s when we’ll see the real benefits of this space.”

Prudential Financial CEO John Strangfeld stopped by the site, and talked with the GNC staff and SCA Crew Leader Jarred Shaw about the successes of the 2008 Community Crews. “This is a tremendous program,” said Strangfeld, who posed for a photograph with the volunteer crew.

Lee Stronstorff of the GNC agreed. “It’s great that all the students are from Newark,” he said. “That’s sustainability.”

Several neighborhood residents also lent a hand once the project got going. One of the most tireless volunteers was Destany Harrison, age 8, who lives next door to the worksite and came out with her Grandmother to help. Asked by Shaw what she thought about having a new garden next door, Destany cheerily replied, “It’s fun!” before heaping a pile of dirt from a wheelbarrow.

The Prudential foundation, based in Newark, continues to be a major funder for SCA’s Newark Community Crew program. Saturday’s service project was one of several throughout the city, as part of Prudential Financial’s Global Volunteer Day.