School Cleanup Teaches Civics, Environmentalism

Florham Park – Now in its second year, locally originated “One Day, One School ” volunteer school grounds cleanup program has expanded with more tree professionals – and an added aspect of environmental education.


“It really exemplifies the strong volunteer spirit we have in this community,” said Mayor Scott Eveland, who popularized the “One Day, One School ” program he developed along with tree contractors Thomas “Ace” Gallagher and Rick Close.

At no cost to the school district, around 100 volunteers performed an estimated $50,000 worth of needed tree work and outdoor cleaning on several acres between the adjacent Brooklake and Briarwood elementary schools off Brooklake Road in Florham Park on Saturday, April 19.

“To tap into that community pride for the benefit of the schools is so tremendous,” the mayor said.

“This year, ‘One Day, One School ' was brought up to a new level.”

In addition to the project originator Gallagher, who operates Ace Gallagher Stump Grinding of Florham Park, and his program collaborator Close, manager of the Davey Tree Company of Morris Plains , the professional tree surgeons working at the schools this year also included the Woodland Tree Company, the Honor Tree Company and the All-American Tree Company, all of Madison .

Generous Contractors

“I give a lot of credit to the tree service professionals who spent a beautiful Saturday, when they could have been out making money instead of giving their time to improve our community,” said Eveland.

Florham Park Environmental Commission President Blaine Rothauser added a new element of environmental education to the program this year. He pointed out to student volunteers at the cleanup examples of the native species of plants and animals in the woods near the school, and explained how they relate to the ecosystem.

Rothauser and Environmental Commission member Cliff Schaeffer also filled in a ditch near the schoolyard and planted it with native species, which were covered with poultry wire to deter deer from eating them, noted Florham Park Superintendent of Schools William Ronzitti.

Eveland and Environmental Commission members Laurie Iandorio, Carmen Pane and Scott Carpenter also aided the cleanup effort.

“It exemplified what Florham Park is all about,” Ronzitti said of the school volunteers. “Everyone was working so hard, and when the kids see that, they work hard, too.”

Student Volunteers

Some two to three dozen children worked to clean up the school grounds and adjacent woodlands. After the tree professionals cut dead limbs and trees, the timber was chopped up into wood chips the students spread to provide a safer play area.

Eveland said he thought the young volunteers benefited from the environmental lessons provided by Rothauser, as well as the civic lessons provided by the adult volunteers. The mayor observed the young people worked enthusiastically and without prodding.

Florham Park Hardware donated rakes, gloves, and goggles for the volunteers to use in the cleanup, while Whole Foods of Madison donated food and refreshments.

The Whole Foods supermarket chain will distribute information about the “One Day, One School ” project to its 260 stores around the U.S. , according to Gallagher.

“By Arbor Day, on May 17, we want to put together a playbook, or template, for ‘One Day, One School ,' so a similar project can be done for any school district that inquires about it,” Gallagher said Monday, April 28.

“Tree Care Industry magazine wrote about ‘One Day, One School' in Florham Park in its December 2007 issue, which has helped to spur Rick Close to create the template,” Gallagher said.

The Florham Park Department of Community Services provided dump trucks and a backhoe to aid in the cleanup. Gallagher praised borough officials Carl Ganger and Frank Esposito for their hard work and assistance.

Popular Additions

Eveland said the addition of several birdhouses, contributed by the Brooklake Country Club of Florham Park, proved to be popular with some recent arrivals to the school grounds.

“Amazingly, within 30 minutes of the birdhouses being installed, we noticed some birds building a nest in one of the birdhouses,” the mayor said.

In addition to Ronzitti who manned a barbeque grill to provide food for volunteers along with Florham Park Acting Police Chief Patrick Montuore and volunteer Rocco Scaniello, other school officials worked on the project.

They included schools Business Administrator John Csatlos, employees Steven Haynes, Philip Infantalino and Andrew Bassolino, Brooklake School Principal Susan Tietjen, teachers Charles Murray, Kate Ruppell, Shawn Hawkins and Joseph Chirzallo, and Board of Education President John MacFarlane.

“Mayor Eveland never stopped; neither did Councilman Mark Taylor,” Ronzitti remarked. “Nobody ever works harder than the boss.”

The school superintendent said the tree professionals made the schools' grounds a safer place for children and school neighbors, by removing potentially dangerous dead limbs and trees. He said the tree removal work would have cost the district $800 to $1,400 per tree, which the district could not afford.

Organizers added the big turnout for the event was a happy surprise, since the cleanup had been rained out the previous two Saturdays in a row.