By Alyssa Sanchez
Don Pucillo, president of Performance Nutrition, took the “Healthy Turf. Healthy Kids.” restoration project for the Hazlet Youth Athletic League at Steven B. Paterson Memorial Football Field in Hazlet, New Jersey, personally. As a kid he played baseball on a field in desperate need of a facelift, while he saw other kids played on more manicured fields.
Shortly after the ribbon cutting event at the newly renovated Hazlet field in May, Pucillo reflected on the project.
“I grew up in Brooklyn, New York. The baseball fields we had growing up were nothing but rocks and dirt. You had have nerves of steel to be an infielder when we played. When I heard what was going on here in Hazlet, I wanted to help.
“We just wanted to create a safe place for the kids to play,” added Pucillo. “Every kid should have a safe place to play, and I’m proud to say that now Hazlet kids have one.”
After a regrade and reseeding of the field, and two applications of Performance Nutrition’s NutriSmart environmentally friendly eco-fertilizer and granular soil inoculant, the Hazlet field had a grand opening to commemorate the newly renovated field on May 18, 2017. This major upgrade was done in partnership with volunteers from Performance Nutrition, Project EverGreen and Natural Green Lawn Care.
Pucillo was excited to participate in the “Healthy Turf. Healthy Kids.” as a program sponsor because he believes in promoting a corporate culture that extends beyond employees and customers and into the community as well.
With their corporate headquarters in Hazlet, Performance Nutrition, a division of LidoChem, Inc., the company’s leadership saw the field’s restoration project as an opportunity to give back to the local community.
Bennett Jackson, who once played as a child for the Hazlet Hawks and is a free agent in the NFL, was present at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. He was quoted in a local newspaper as saying:
“I remember playing on that half-dirt, half-grass field over there. This is a huge thing for the community, having a nice grass field like this will be great for the kids and for the town.”
The field was closed for a decade. The renovation began last fall and the field opened in May in time for spring sports. Paterson field now offers the Hazlet neighborhood a safer and greener community space for more than 1,500 children and adults.
The author is with What’s Your Avocado? Marketing & Public Relations in Mt. Vernon, Washington
Call it an extreme makeover but call it a vast improvement.
The athletic and recreation fields at Walker Elementary School in Ashland, Oregon had struck out long ago when it came to providing a safe, attractive location to hold a ballgame. The fields were unused and not safe for children to use.
That isn’t the case anymore after Project EverGreen and its “Healthy Turf. Healthy Kids.” initiative stepped up to the plate and hit a home run.
The school’s athletic fields received an extensive renovation and revitalization in the fall of 2016 courtesy of Project EverGreen and the Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance, along with volunteers from the Southern Oregon Landscape Association, Ashland (Oregon) School District and the Ashland Little League.
Volunteers, including Little League players who are chasing down fly balls on the new turf this season, pitched in to help improve the fields’ playability and increase player safety. The project covered more than 139,000 sq. ft. of turf and started with cleaning up the debris from the playing surface.
This was followed by weed removal and application of weed control products, soil aeration by volunteers from the Southern Oregon Landscape Association, and overseeding with more than 2,000 lbs. of drought tolerant seed and top-dressing donated by the Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance.
Dave Sommer, head of maintenance for Ashland School District, said the fields now receive consistent usage and that brings a smile to his face and others in the community as well.
“I see people out here using them all the time on the weekends and the school can have their kids come over here for PE and recess again,” adds Sommer. “It’s great to see what a difference we could make here.”
The maintenance staff at Walker Elementary has incorporated ongoing, sustainable water-smart irrigation practices, core aeration, turf fertility and overseeding initiatives to keep the fields healthy.
“It is a night and day difference for the playing surfaces at Walker Elementary School and for the teams of the Ashland Little League,” says Cindy Code, executive director of Project EverGreen. “Investments in renovating and revitalizing athletic and recreational green spaces must be done to ensure these areas are available for children and the greater community to enjoy and benefit from.”
Managed green spaces that include healthy grass, plants and trees results in better park use, increased safety and the creation of a community hub for long-time neighbors, their grandchildren and the next generation moving into the neighborhood. Additionally, the grass, plants and trees will clean the air, sequester carbon and provide oxygen. This truly is a win-win situation.
Sommer also noted how the improvements in the field have not gone unnoticed by the rest of the community.
“The parks and recreation department came out and built up the pitcher’s mound and the city received a grant to extend the backstop and fences, put in covered dugouts and possibly even a back fence,” said Sommers.
It’s not all good news though, as Sommer notes, with a chuckle, “We’ve been finding a lot of fouled balls in our shop yard, which is something that never happened before.”
Project EverGreen will dedicate a pair of Healthy Turf. Healthy Kids. projects in Hazlet, New Jersey and East Harlem, New York City this week, continuing the initiative’s mission to make athletic and recreational green spaces more accessible to children and communities to enjoy and benefit from.
The dedication for the Steven B. Paterson Memorial Field in Hazlet, New Jersey will take place Thursday, May 18 at 4:00 p.m. and feature remarks from Project EverGreen Executive Director Cindy Code, Hazlet Mayor Sue Kiley, Hazlet Youth Athletic League President Seb Burtone and Don Pucillo, CEO/President, Performance Nutrition, a division of LidoChem. Youth football players and cheerleaders from the Hazlet Youth League Hazlet Hawks will also be in attendance.
The Neighbors of Vega Baja Community Garden dedication will be held Saturday, May 20 at 11:30 am. and will feature remarks from Project EverGreen’s Code, as well as Carlos Martinez, deputy director, NYC Parks GreenThumb and Johnny Rivera, East Harlem district leader.
Steven B. Paterson Memorial Field
Hazlet, New Jersey
Last fall, Project EverGreen, as part of its Healthy Turf. Healthy Kids. ™ Initiative, donated a professional landscaping renovation to restore and improve the weather-damaged field of the Hazlet Youth Athletic League. With the financial assistance of the Performance Nutrition division of Hazlet-based LidoChem, Inc., and Bridgewater, N.J.-based Natural Green Lawn Care, and community members, a work party reshaped, fertilized and seeded the field to create a safe, greenspace where community children can play.
The professional landscaping contractor and supplier volunteers’ donations-in-kind of their expertise, materials, and services to improve the playability and safety of 100,000 sq. ft. of playing surface, totals over $25,000 in value.
The field renovation improved the health and vigor of the grass, and created a safer playing surface for nearly 1,500 children in HYAL fall football and spring flag football leagues within the HYAL league and Hazlet Township community.
Neighbors of Vega Baja Community Garden
East Harlem, New York City
In October, Project EverGreen, with support from a Con Edison community service grant, teamed up with local landscape and nursery industry professionals and New York City Parks GreenThumb to begin the revitalization of a sustainable Neighbors of Vega Baja community garden in the heart of East Harlem.
The work took place over a two-day period with Artisan Gardens donating gravel lining and topsoil to fill large planter boxes in place, applying a truckload of mulch to the open garden center area, and planting new apple trees and 30 hydrangeas and fruit-bearing bushes supplied by Plant Detectives, Inc.
On May 20, the Neighbors of Vega Baja garden will receive the final spring planting of 350 additional vegetables, herbs, and ornamental flowering shrubs, donated by Plant Detectives, Inc. and installed by ConEd employee volunteers, with Artisan Gardens Landscape supervision. The entire donation was mobilized by Project EverGreen, partnering with NYC Parks Green Thumb, in community service to the Neighbors of Vega Baja residents, at no cost.
Altogether, the ConEd grant and professional landscaping materials and services donations for both the fall 2016, and May, 2017 garden installations totaled more than $15,000 in value, transforming a previously vacant pocket park into a new, sustainable fruit and vegetable garden and community park for The Neighbors of Vega Baja Association now, and in the future, that otherwise would not have been available.