Written by Erin McFeeters, Content Coordinator, New Jersey REALTORS®
What was once a vacant lot on Centre Street in Trenton, New Jersey is now an educational community garden for the Boys and Girls Club.
The Boys and Girls Club of Mercer County offers countless indoor activities and programs for children, however, they struggled to have outside play time because of the lack of safe parks and outside areas in the city. The club acquired a vacant lot across the street from their Trenton location with the goal of transforming the parcel into an educational garden so children in their programs could learn and thrive in an outdoor environment.
In 2016, NAR President Tom Salomone announced a partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. President Salomone knew Boys and Girls Clubs, like Realtors®, are a part of the fabric that makes up every community across the nation.
The NJ Realtors® Housing Opportunity Foundation had worked with the Boys and Girls Club on previous initiatives and took special interest when they learned about the Garden Project. The foundation then donated $5,000 towards the cause plus pursued a $5,000 Placemaking Grant through NAR for a small library to add to the garden project plans. Additionally, NJ Realtors® commemorated their first anniversary in their Trenton Headquarters by donating $5,000 to the project.
“It’s important as Realtors® to get involved in the communities we work and live in,” said New Jersey Realtors® Housing Opportunity President Christina Clemans. “Trenton is our state capital and children in the city deserve somewhere safe to learn and grow.”
NJ Realtors® recently launched a consumer campaign titled Plant Roots with a Realtor®. The campaign has a goal of explaining the benefits of using a Realtor® because it’s more than a house—it’s a community, a neighborhood, and a place to roots. In April, the NJ Realtors® Housing Opportunity Foundation took this initiative to the most literal level when the Trustees, NJ Realtors® 2019 President Ilene Horowitz, and NJ Realtors® staff members made their way to the Boys and Girls Club to volunteer.
Under the direction of the Trenton Boys and Girls Club President and CEO David Anderson and Facility Director Rickey Woods, volunteers built raised garden beds, paved an entrance path, installed raspberry trellises, painted, and put together a small library to house books about gardening and nature.
Just a month later the club held their official ribbon cutting ceremony. Children from the community, Trenton City Council members, donors, NJ Realtors® Housing Opportunity Foundation Trustees, and NJ Realtors® staff members attended to see the unveiling of the newest addition to their community.
When you arrive at the garden entrance the colorful fence made of bicycle parts created by Boys and Girls Club bicycle program coordinator, Wills Kinsley, immediately catches your eye. The outdoor space now consists of educational areas including a library and growing area, a pavilion with bleachers, a storage shed for gardening tools, gardening beds to plant fruits and vegetables, and a play area with space for soccer.
In addition, they created a native plant forest to teach children about what naturally grows in New Jersey’s climate and a rain garden for children to have hands-on experience with conserving natural resources.
Children of Trenton will now have the opportunity to enjoy outdoor activities in a safe environment, plus learn about plants, animals, insects, and gardening throughout the process.
NJ Realtors® Housing Opportunity Foundation is proud to collaborate with the Boys and Girls Club of Mercer County and looks forward to continually investing in community projects across the state.