Nationally recognized “ One Day One School ” program brings together tree experts, school officials, town representatives, local companies, and young volunteers.
Salem Drive School will be the site of the next “One Day One School” community volunteer cleanup event on Saturday November 1.
The initiative, now entering its third year, is based on the simple idea that a single day of volunteer teamwork will go a long way in making the community's school grounds cleaner and safer.
The day's activities will begin with a collection of area tree care companies donating their time, equipment, and services to prune and remove dangerous trees and branches.
They will then assist crews of volunteers in a complete cleanup of the area, and will finally supervise the planting of new trees and shrubs.
The program was inspired by Tom “Ace” Gallagher of Ace Gallagher Stump Grinding Service of Whippany when he noticed dead tree branches hanging over a path as he walked his son to Salem Drive School .
Having plenty of experience in clearing storm damage at various schools, he volunteered his company's services after learning there was no budget to clean up the potential hazard.
The idea was developed further with longtime friends Florham Park Mayor Scott Eveland and Rick Close of the Davey Tree Expert Company in Morris Plains .
The three quickly recognized the concept's potential not just as a “quick fix” for a particular location, but as an ongoing series of awareness-raising events that could be easily duplicated in any community.
After they'd enlisted several area companies and local officials, the first full-scale event took place in 2007 at Ridgedale Middle School in Florham Park with many of the school's own students among the group of enthusiastic volunteers.
Since then, the “environmental makeover” initiative has steadily expanded to include the participation of several additional tree services, school officials, town representatives, public works departments and community organizations along with other local companies and sponsors. An environmental education element has also been incorporated into the program itself.
The organizers explain that since this type of work is not always allocated in a school's budget, the One Day One School program is an ideal way to bring the entire community together to make any of the needed improvements at no cost to taxpayers.
In fact, Florham Park Superintendent of Schools Dr. William Ronzetti has estimated that the series of One Day, One School initiatives had saved the district from $85,000 to $100,000 in 2007.
The series of One Day One School events has been covered by area publications such as the Daily Record, The Star-Ledger, The Florham Park Eagle and the Hanover Eagle & Weekly News, and the group has been contacted by several other municipalities interested in bringing the program to their own communities.
Confirming the organizers' belief in the idea's portability, a One Day One School event was recently held in Townsend , Montana following a feature article in Tree Care Industry Association Magazine.
The group of Salem Drive volunteers will also include a “crew” of Florham Park school administrators and town representatives.
“We want to take the program over to other communities,” said John Csatlos, Florham Park school district's business administrator. “We are dedicated to this, and we would volunteer at other schools as if they were our own.”
A barbecue grill will be manned by local police officials with all food being provided by Whole Foods of Madison, NJ.
Eveland has described the program as not only a way to raise awareness, but also as an opportunity for the participants to “take ownership in your school.”
“Never have people had so much fun working,” he said. “But more than that, this is an investment for the kids in the future or their community.”