Young volunteers and their parents are determined to improve Forest Hills and Rego Park, one flower and bush at a time.
On June 18, approximately 50 volunteers helped landscape The Howard Apartments, a complex with large lawns and curved paths at at 66th Road and 102nd Street, reviving the concept of the community garden, which was once prevalent in the neighborhood.
“Young people in our community proved that civic pride is not passé,” said Elsie Stark, board president of The Howard Apartments. “After a dark year of COVID-19, these flowers really brighten up our spirits.”
Students will receive service credit, and come from JHS 157, PS 196, 144, 101, and 303, Forest Hills High School, and the Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School.
Wendy Medina attended with her nine-year-old daughter, Lexa Ocasio.
“The part I loved the most was when a woman who lived at The Howard Apartments thanked me and mentioned how happy the flowers made her feel,” said Medina. “It was fun and exciting to see the beautiful flowers and meet so many new people.”
“Volunteering makes you realize how lucky we are to be able to give back,” said Ocasio. “After Hurricane Sandy, my family and I drove around Howard Beach giving out water. During the holidays, we buy hot food and feed the homeless.”
Evan Yee, 16, explained that it felt good to participate in an event people can admire and feel good about.
“It feels good to accomplish something,” he said. “Maybe we can get a donation truck and gather things people were going to throw out and give them to the needy. I see so many items go to waste.”
“Volunteers outnumbered the plants, which spoke a lot to the community’s willingness,” said his mother, Amyrose Yee. “I was very thankful the kids had a chance to help. Greening opportunities remind people of outdoor beauty and to respect the land and greenery within a concrete jungle.”
The community gardening initiative was founded by this columnist in partnership with members of the Facebook groups “Rego-Forest Preservation Council” and “Forest Hills, Rego Park, Kew Gardens – Our Communities.” It was supported by The Home Depot in Glendale.
“When you do things that impact the community and leave a lasting positive change, it changes you personally,” said operations manager Christina Strongilos. “We are honored to help as a partner to beautify and unite our community.”
Consuelo Garcia attended with her seven-year-old son Manuel López-Garcia and her ten-year-old daughter Consuelo López-Garcia.
“It felt exciting to volunteer at the gardening event,” she said. “It is very important to volunteer because it helps our community in many ways.”
It was the first time Oi Shan-Chi volunteered with her children, eight-year-old Logan Fung and six-year-old Katie.
“It feels great to give back and work with others to beautify our community,” she said. “Children need to know that they have the power to improve our community, and if everyone does a little weekly, the world will be better.”
Volunteers will be at the 66th Road Community Garden on June 25 at 3:30 p.m. To volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org.