The Roosevelt Island Garden Club was honored to participate in a collaborative community initiative at Coler Hospital this month. Organized by Christina Delfico of iDig2learn, a coalition of Roosevelt Island volunteers joined 130 Google employees on the grounds of NYC Health + Hospitals/Coler to restore some of the local hospital’s substantial green spaces.
The event was the culmination of more than a half-year of collaborations between Roosevelt Island neighbors and organizations, but it all started with a chance encounter in the Roosevelt Island Garden Club's Community Garden.
The idea to revitalize Coler's green spaces began when Coler resident Melrose Barnes struck up a conversation with RIGC member Anthony Longo. Barnes mentioned how the outdoor spaces at Coler had been damaged by Hurricane Sandy. And Longo began providing Barnes with compost that Barnes transported in small loads in his wheelchair.
In true Roosevelt Island fashion, soon a coalition of active residents and community organizers began putting their heads together to come up with bigger and better solutions. Roosevelt Island Garden Club Outreach Director Robert Ostergaard and RIGC club member Julia Ferguson (who was working on a map of island green spaces) jumped onboard. Ferguson, in turn, contacted Christina Delfico at iDig2Learn, to see what more could be done. Along with Longo (of Green Roosevelt Island Neighbors) they visited Coler, where they met with Jovemay Santos, Director of Therapeutic Recreation, and Margaret Lopes, Supervising Children’s Counselor.
And together they started scouting and planning.
"Everyone here at Coler is touched by this generous gift of giving by all concerned."
“During our scout, Roosevelt Island Garden Club and Green Roosevelt Island Neighbors committed to cleaning up a memory unit garden and a container garden space using compost, plant donations, and island volunteers," says Delfico. RIGC was able to do this in April 2018, but this was only the tip of the iceberg. In the meantime, Christina began to plan for the larger courtyard space to pull in whatever resources she could to help.That help included enlisting longtime iDig2Learn supporter, Citizens Committee for New York City, which connected Delfico to Google. So, iDig2Learn, CCNYC, and Google worked tirelessly with Coler staff to put this amazing day together for June.
Then it happened. By the end of the day on June 20th, these Roosevelt Island volunteers and CCNYC and Google employees had created three new flower beds, revitalized and replanted three additional beds, painted railings and benches, and patched and painted a large shade structure for residents. They also set up garden umbrellas, built wheelchair-accessible planters, and created an area of native plantings to attract pollinators. And they planted dozens of containers (used and new) using hundreds of plants and bags of soil acquired for this project by iDig2learn.
Thanks to Longo and Green Roosevelt Island Neighbors, all of the garden debris was sorted, sifted, and brought to the Community Garden for composting. Next fall, Longo and Garden Club Members will be able to bring this compost back to Coler's gardens.
"Everyone here at Coler is touched by this generous gift of giving by all concerned." said Robert Hughes, CEO of Coler. "We are deeply moved by the volunteers from the Roosevelt Island Garden Club and Green Roosevelt Island Neighbors. Special recognition to iDig2Learn for giving us this opportunity to enhance and create a therapeutic green space for our residents to enjoy for years to come. Now we're going to be able to really use it. Everyone’s done such a wonderful job and I’m so excited to see what’s to come.”
To read more about the event, check out the Roosevelt Islander Online.
Groups and individuals involved in this project include iDig2Learn; NYC Health + Hospitals/Coler, Citizens Committee for New York City, Google, Green Roosevelt Island Neighbors (GRIN), Roosevelt Island Garden Club (RIGC), Studio150 Multimedia, Roosevelt Island Tree Board, Northcreek Nurseries, Fantastic Gardens, Andrew Rohrberger, Erika Lim, Mike Bufano, Mr. Melrose Barnes, Jovemay Santos, Margaret Lopes, Robert Hughes, Leah Matias, Al Pistone, Monsy Nieves-Martinez, Jose Torres, Robin Middleton, Maria Alinea-Bravo, Jose Serrano, George Smith, Kenny Ealy, Nelson Rosa, Andres (Jay) Molina, David Strayker, Danny Mahadeo, Julio Bonet, Therapeutic Recreation Services, Coler’s Hospitals Police, Vaughn Anglesey, Anthony Longo, Julia Ferguson, Robert Ostergaard, Neal Weissman, Dr. Ali Schwayri, Franta, Olya Turcihin, Michelle Fei, Alex Enoch, Nick Craner, Dawn Price, Janine Schaefer, Maria Starkova, Judy Berdy and all the volunteers and residents who made this project possible.
Photo Credits: Olya Turcihin