Vivid Volunteering, Lasting Memories

by Pamela B. Daniels


Call me old school, but there’s just something so fulfilling about volunteering. I remember clearly my years at Mt. Vernon Elementary School, the good ole days, when the Do Something Club was thriving as an after school program. It felt like the whole school in one way or another participated. Perhaps because Mr. Wild tripled as Do Something Club Advisor, Basketball Team Coach, and favorite Math teacher so one way or another, service made it’s way into your daily regime.

Anyway, I remember Do Something, not only because they sponsored the annual Kindness & Justice Challenge, where students would compete with one another in performing as many random acts of kindness as possible – I still have my first place trophy from ’99, but because every year, for a whole Saturday, volunteers, and a combination of school and community family poured into the school on a spring morning to roll up their sleeves and get busy. Doing what? Everything! From painting over graffiti in the bathrooms to scrubbing hallways, scraping gum from under desks to repainting lines on the playground. A team was even commissioned to go across the street to Ivy Hill Park to pick up trash and wash down the railings, slides, water fountains and benches.

I don’t know what it was that made that day so memorable, nearly twenty years later. Maybe it was the free lunch that inevitably came at the end of a day’s work. Perhaps it was the incessant fun that came with washing paint off my hands with orange glow, or simply the positive aura that exuded around me as dozens of young people and community family contributed to restoring our school building and play areas. Whatever it was, it was something that has stayed with me to this day.

Although it is now my job to plan these kinds of activities at UVSO, I still take such joy on volunteer event days, when all hands are on deck young and old together to beautify the community. UVSO currently manages two community gardens through our Heart of Vailsburg (HOV) Organizing Project: 1068 18th Avenue and 69 Norwood Street. HOV Norwood is in its fifth season as an organic and primarily vegetable garden. HOV 18th Avenue is in its fourth season as an organic herb & flora space. Both locations are beautiful not only because of the precious plants that grow therein, but because each of them were launched and maintained through a concerted community effort. When I’m in those gardens with (my own) neighbors, I feel that same rush of excitement and joy that I felt those many years ago in the halls of Mt. Vernon School and in Ivy Hill Park. I feel hope for my community because I am surrounded by people who feel compelled to do more than just live in a neighborhood, but rather contribute to her growth and sustainability.

If you are interested in volunteering at the HOV Gardens or along neighbors in other projects, please reach out to the UVSO Department of Community Outreach & Planning at 973.374.2000 ext. 1402.

The Future is Now

UVSO Executive Director, Mike Farley, speaking at the Community Forum

On Friday, June 20, UVSO hosted one of the 6 Community Forums held by Mayor-Elect Ras J. Baraka’s transition team.  Over 150 Newark residents crowded into our Teen Center space at 40 Richelieu Terrace to make their voices and ideas heard.

The energy in the room was palpable as the mayor-elect took the stage and gave a rousing pep talk.  He encouraged everyone to take this opportunity to speak directly to his administration about what matters to them around the issues of public safety, public health, education, recreation,jobs,  and economic development, and he promised to listen.  Once the breakout groups commenced, the conversations were lively and robust.

Today, Ras J. Baraka begins his term as Mayor of this great city and we are excited to see what the future holds. We look forward to working closely with his administration to continue our mission here in Vailsburg, which is to create a stable and compassionate community.

A New Beginning

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao-Tzu

Welcome to the renewed, redesigned and re-energized Unified Vailsburg Services Organization website!

My name is Veronica Bailey and I’m the Assistant Executive Director, as well as the Blogger-in-Chief.  Having joined this agency a little over a year ago, I have to say that I’m proud to work here and be a part of our mission to create a stable and compassionate community in the Vailsburg section of Newark.

I hope you’ll take some time to check out our new online home and I welcome any feedback you have about the site.  It will always be a work in progress as we will constantly strive to bring you closer to what we do by keeping you informed and getting you engaged.  We need you and we can’t do our work without you.

2013 was a giant step forward for UVSO. We broke ground on the Palm Street Infant & Toddler Center, which will open in September of this year. This is our first major construction project in 5 years and it exemplifies our continued commitment to the importance of early childhood education.  As we embark on this journey, we invite you to be a part of it: please Donate!  Every dollar we raise enables us to better serve the community…things like making sure that our senior citizens can get to their doctor appointments on time, or that Teen Center students can have a hot meal afterschool, or that our preschool kids can get new books.  That’s just a snapshot of the impact your dollar can have.

We have exciting things in store for 2014 as well, and I will keep you up to date on them on this blog.

As they say in the newspaper business, “Watch this space”.