Community volunteers will come together on Saturday, April 5 to make the school grounds at 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 make-over, as tree professionals, town leaders and students donate their equipment, services and time.
Inspired by Tom “Ace” Gallagher of Ace Gallagher Stump Grinding Service of Whippany, 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 Scott Eveland, now mayor of Florham Park and Rick Close, district manager of the Morris Plains office of The Davey Tree Expert Company, to organize and launch a full-fledged community service project.
“This is an amazing community effort. I believe if everyone 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,” he adds.
In true community spirit, Dr. William Ronzitti, Superintendent of Florham Park Public Schools, and Acting Police Chief Patrick Montuore will grill hot dogs and hamburgers for the 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 Whippany, Woodland Tree Company of Florham Park, Honor Tree Company of Madison, and Ironwood Tree Service of Florham Park have agreed to donate their services and perform the 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 explain that this type of work may not be allocated in a school's budget so One Day One School is a terrific solution to get it done and bring everybody together as a team to make a visible improvement.
Student volunteers will rake and clean up the grounds after the crews clear away the trees. Students will then plant new trees and shrubs, native to the area, under the guidance of environmentalist Blain Rothauser, of BR Environmental, LLC, and president of Florham Park 's Environmental Commission.
This restoration component to the day's activities will, over time, increase biodiversity while simultaneously educating students regarding 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 Tree Care Industry Association, are developing a written program that can be used as a resource by other communities and tree care companies and 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 ball field of Ridgedale Middle School in Florham Park .
The eight-hour clean-up involved safety pruning of nearly 40 trees and stump grinding of 15 to 20 trees that were removed completely, totaling an estimated $10,00 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 in Florham Park .
For more information contact Ace Gallagher at (973) 428-1102.