Columbia and Lend Lease Give Upper Manhattan Community Gardens a Makeover

 

Some 60 volunteers from Columbia University, Lend Lease (formerly Bovis Lend Lease) and graduates from the New York City Small Business Services/Columbia University business mentorship program converged on an Upper Manhattan community garden to clean and enhance the area for the seniors and children who frequent the garden.

Part of the Lend Lease annual community service day, the volunteers donated a full day to helping to restore the natural beauty of the garden, located on West 152nd Street next to the Wilson Major Morris Community Center and across the street from the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Activities included removing trash, pulling weeds throughout the block long garden, resetting stones, planting pots of flowers, laying mulch, reinforcing benches for people to enjoy, pruning trees, and leaving all the rakes, gloves, and sheers behind to help maintain the garden. Materials removed from the site were recycled continuing a strong commitment to sustainable activities.

"This means a lot to me," said Lucy Hilton, a local senior citizen and one of the primary gardeners. "I'm so grateful and happy.  They have done such a beautiful job giving the garden a facelift. I feel like an old lady turning into a young girl."

Columbia's faculty, students and staff have long engaged in partnerships and programs that provide services to individuals, families, schools and businesses in Upper Manhattan. 

"We started preparing for this service project about six months ago," said La-Verna Fountain, associate vice president for Communications and Construction Business Services at Columbia University. "Lend Lease wanted to know where we would like to have a service project this year and the community garden presented the best type of one-day service project. Columbia has a long history of working with the community through many different programs, and this was an opportunity for us to bring together different groups, support a local project and make a difference for a wonderful group of people. We received as much joy working together as I hope people will receive utilizing the garden.  Ordinary people connecting through ordinary service is really what the day was all about."  

Every year, Lend Lease employees from around the world volunteer their time and lend their skill, knowledge and muscle to local community projects.

"We like to give back to the communities and the places we work in," said Ralph Esposito, executive vice president at Lend Lease. "People get to know us and see the good things that we do outside of building buildings and this is really important to us as a company." 

Last year, Columbia and Lend Lease collaborated to beautify the Riverside Valley Community Garden, located in West Harlem at 138th Street and 12th Avenue, where founder Jenny Benitez and other local residents plant a wide variety of vegetables and fruit-bearing trees and distribute their harvest each year to the local community. 

"This is one of our largest contributions of plants, man and woman power and good vibes," said Dr. Vicky Gholson, CEO and Founder of DEEL, a not-for-profit organization that coordinates work at the garden. "The kids were excited when I began to tell them about the different companies volunteering which opens their heads up to different career opportunities. When good people come together extraordinary things can happen, and that's what today exemplifies."