Florham Park – Community volunteers will come together Saturday, April 5, to make the school grounds at the Briarwood and Brooklake elementary schools in Florham Park safer and cleaner, at no cost to the district.
With the “One Day, One School ” program, the schools will benefit from an environmental makeover, as tree professionals, town leaders and students donate their equipment, services and time.
Inspired by Thomas “Ace” Gallagher of the Ace Gallagher Stump Grinding Service of Hanover Township, the idea of “ One Day One School ” began when he noticed dead branches hanging over a school path as he walked his son to school. He volunteered his company's services to fix the potential hazard. In 2007, Gallagher partnered with then-Councilman Scott Eveland, now mayor of Florham Park , and Rick Close, district manager of the Morris Plains office of the Davey Tree Expert Company, to launch a full-fledged community service project in Florham Park , with a cleanup of the Ridgedale Middle School grounds last June.
“This is an amazing community effort. I believe if everybody gives a little bit of their time, it makes a really big difference,” said Gallagher. “This program makes a school better-looking and much safer, and safety is our biggest concern.”
On April 5, Florham Park Superintendent of Schools William Ronzitti and Acting Police Chief Patrick Montuore will grill hot dogs and hamburgers for volunteers. Whole Foods of Madison is donating all the food and beverages for the day.
In addition to Gallagher's and Close's companies, All-American Tree Company of Hanover Township, Woodland Tree Company of Florham Park, Honor Tree Company of Madison, and Ironwood Tree Service of Florham Park are donating their services to work for the day.
“This is a tremendous way to clean up the school with some necessary work that doesn't cost our taxpayers a dime,” said Eveland. Organizers noted the improvements made in “One Day One School” can be beyond the means of a school budget, and offer an opportunity for team work and community involvement.
Students Work and Learn
Student volunteers will rake and clean up the grounds after the crews clean away the trees. Students will then plant new trees and shrubs, native to the area, under the guidance of Blaine Rothauser, chairman of the Florham Park Environmental Commission. The restoration component to the day's activities will, over time, increase biodiversity while simultaneously educating students about forest ecology. In addition to a civics lesson, the event will give students a better understanding of the environmental balance of their surroundings.
The program is expanding throughout the country, with a “ One Day One School ' event taking place in Montana this month. Eveland, Gallagher, and Close, along with New Jersey state foresters and the Tree Care Industry Association, are developing a written program that can be used as a resource by other communities and tree care companies, and said they hope their efforts will energize volunteerism nationwide.
Last year, with Eveland's leadership in organizing more than 75 volunteers from the schools and borough departments, the program successfully cleared an area near the Ridgedale Middle School ball field. The eight-hour cleanup involved safety pruning of nearly 40 trees and stump grinding of 15 to 20 trees that were removed completely, totaling an estimated donation of $10,000 to $15,000 in labor and equipment costs.
“One Day One School” will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Briarwood and Brooklake school grounds off Brooklake Road .