Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Volunteers, Students Hold Garden Party

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Volunteers, Students Hold Garden Party

Article excerpt

The steady whir of weed whackers was music to the ears of the volunteers from Music Choice who returned to the Elysian Fields Community Garden behind School 5 in Paterson on Friday.

Under a golden sun, employees of the cable television service pulled weeds, tilled the soil, painted murals and built a vertical garden and amphitheater in a field that not long ago was littered with garbage and assorted junk. The all-volunteer effort was an expansion of the community garden that was planted last year that provides food for poor families and rich learning experiences for the kids at School 5.

"My wish is that we could do more," said Dave Del Beccaro, the CEO of Music Choice Cares, the foundation that does community projects all over the country. "We'll keep going until we finish."

Fifteen years ago, this area was the scene of one of the more lurid crimes in Paterson history. On June 20, 2001, a mob of more than a dozen teenage boys, most of whom attended John F. Kennedy High School, rampaged across nine blocks of Totowa Avenue. In front of a Jasper Street factory, they found a homeless man, Hector Robles, drinking a beer. The mob attacked and killed him.

A jury eventually convicted one of the boys, John Williams of reckless manslaughter and he was sent to prison. The other boys pleaded guilty to lesser crimes in exchange for their testimony.

Now there is a reading garden a stone's throw from where Robles died. And on Friday, an amphitheater went up, where there will be a screen to show outdoor movies. An area toward the back of the 130- yard garden was cleared to plant potatoes and pumpkins, and 60 flower boxes were given new soil.

"This is a place where people can come and feel that they are part of nature," said Seth Friedman, the vice president of development for the New Jersey Community Development Corp., which oversees the garden.

Friedman noted that Paterson is a city that lacks green space, but many of the families in the School 5 community know how to grow their own food, having emigrated from rural countries: Bangladesh, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

The garden is providing more than just food. …

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