Short Hills Resident Key in Rizzuto Park Clean-Up
He saw the park needed some TLC when traveling back from the airport.
The reawakening of the volcano Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland may have caused no shortage of chaos around the globe, but Union County's Phil Rizzuto Park is a little cleaner because of it.
The volcano is only part of the reason—the rest being a group of volunteers from Fiduciary Trust Co. who spent a recent Friday at the park named after the New York Yankees legend. They pulled weeds, cut back vines, put down mulch and generally gave the heavily-used park a desperately-needed dose of TLC.
Every year in June, employees of Fiduciary and its parent company, Franklin Templeton Investments, volunteer for public service projects in their respective regions. The Fiduciary employees look for projects in New York and New Jersey, said Katherine Abate, the co-coordinator of the volunteers at Rizzuto.
But it was indirectly due to Eyjafjallajökull Rizzuto Park made it to the list of projects employees could choose from.
Henry Johnson, the CEO of Fiduciary Trust, was in Europe on business and was delayed getting home because of the volcanic ash that grounded so many flights. When the Short Hills resident was finally able to fly out, however, his flight was to JFK instead of Newark.
As he was "meandering" his way home from the airport, he saw the park named after the Yankee shortstop and resident of neighboring Hillside. He also saw that it could use some help. When the offer was made to Union County parks officials, it was a done deal.
"We cannot thank the folks from Fiduciary enough," said Union County Freeholder Deborah Scanlon, the freeholder board's liaison to the parks department. "With all the cutbacks that we have had to make in recent years, we know our resources are stretched, which is why we always appreciate when groups come forward to work in the parks."
For Johnson, a die-hard Yankees fan, it was a perfect melding of working outside for the day and his beloved Bronx Bombers. "I loved Phil Rizzuto," he said. Rizzuto, nicknamed "Scooter," went on to be an announcer for the Yankees after he hung up his cleats.
But Johnson had allies.
"I'm a big Yankee fan," said Eva Anthony, of Bayonne. "And this sounded like a nice opportunity to help out."
Over at the far end of the park, Joy Wyatt was cutting down vines and poison ivy that had grown into a fence. "I have a particular preference for park projects—especially getting rid of invasives," said the Manhattan resident.
Last year, employees from Fiduciary Trust donated their time to a half-way house in the Bronx, where they planted a garden, made repairs to the half-way house and painted it..
Along the Morris Avenue side of the park, Yolanda Villacampa was cleaning up brush with Cristian Reyna. "I saw this park being built," said Villacampa, a Linden resident. "So when I saw that we were going to be cleaning it, I said, 'I'm going.' "
But for Villacampa, volunteering for projects like the Rizzuto Park clean-up takes on another dimension. She is a breast cancer survivor and it's been 25 years since she was first diagnosed. "This is my way of giving back to God for being so nice to me," she said.