Outstanding Volunteers Honored at Daffodil Breakfast

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

NY4P honored outstanding Daffodil Project volunteers from every borough at its annual Daffodil Breakfast on April 23 at Bryant Park Grill in Midtown Manhattan.

The Daffodil Project was founded in 2001 as a living memorial to September 11. With nearly five million free bulbs planted citywide by more than 40,000 school kids, parks and gardening groups, civic organizations, corporate volunteers and other New Yorkers, it is one of the largest volunteer efforts in the city’s history. Today, the project remains a powerful memorial but also has become a symbol of civic pride and community unity. Every spring, NY4P honors volunteers at a breakfast celebrating their participation and leadership.

The 2012 planting season was the most successful to date. NY4P distributed free daffodil bulbs to nearly 700 individuals and neighborhood organizations, and 3,000 kids participated in school and NYCHA plantings – including two groups in Staten Island after Hurricane Sandy. As a result, more than 250,000 new daffodils are blooming this spring.

“Every year, we think ‘this year’s honorees are the best ever,’ and 2013 continues the trend,” said Holly Leicht, NY4P’s Executive Director. “The staff at New Yorkers for Parks is continually amazed by the dedication and energy of our volunteers, and by their intense pride in their parks, their neighborhoods, and their city.  It’s an honor to work with and know such passionate and caring New Yorkers.”
This year's honorees were:

Lynden B. Miller Citywide Award:  
New York City Housing Authority Garden and Greening Program

In 1962, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) launched its first resident flower garden competition, and its Garden and Greening Program was born. Over the past 51 years, the program has helped NYCHA resi­dents create and promote community gardens in every borough, and the competition contin­ues to this day. NY4P formally partnered with Garden and Greening staff in 2012 and held Daffodil Project youth plantings at NYCHA community centers in every borough.

“It doesn’t do the partnership justice to merely report that we co-sponsored six youth plantings with NYCHA community centers and distributed 8,000 additional daffodil bulbs to NYCHA residents at Seth Low Houses,” Leicht said. “What we found most rewarding about this partnership was the enthusiasm and dedication that the Garden and Greening staff bring to their jobs. They care deeply about the residents they work with, and about bringing beauty and nature to NYCHA’s developments, and their passion for what they do motivated the kids to care too.”

Borough Awards:

The Bronx: Debra Myers, Friends of Mount Eden Malls and Claremont Park

Spend a few minutes with Debra Myers and you’ll find that her passion for parks is conta­gious. That passion helped her recruit volunteers and build her organization, the Friends of Mount Eden Malls and Claremont Park, into the driving force behind recent improvements in those central Bronx green spaces. Her work has paid off: Claremont improved from a D in NY4P’s 2011 Report Card on Large Parks to a B in 2012. This time of year, it’s replete with blooming daffodils, thanks to Debra’s tireless efforts.

Brooklyn: Tom Buxton and Jennifer Hicks, I.S. 259 William McKinley

Tom Buxton has made sure his middle school students are acutely aware of the events of 9/11, even if they are too young to actually remember that day. That’s because he’s created a unique 9/11 curriculum at the Bay Ridge school, complete with a 270-foot-long mural by the students on the building’s second floor. It is outside the building, though, where Hicks’ contributions are in evidence, thanks to the afterschool gardening program she leads. Together, the two joined with NY4P and Project sponsor Con Edison to plant a 9/11 tribute garden in front of the school – a stirring reminder of the Daffodil Project’s origins.

Manhattan: Tony Hillery, Harlem Grown and P.S. 175 Henry H. Garnet

If you’re invited by First Lady Michelle Obama for a private tour of her White House Kitchen Garden, as Tony Hillery was, it’s safe to assume you know your community gardening. Hillery has overseen a Parks Department Success Garden (a program NY4P spearheaded as the Parks Council) since 2010, helping the children of P.S. 175 grow fresh produce amid a desert of unhealthy food options. The garden spawned Hillery’s Harlem Grown nonprofit, and it services the school’s cafeteria, local businesses and, at no charge, families in central Harlem. In September, Hillery added a hydroponic greenhouse to the mix and, with the help of students and NY4P staff last November, hundreds of daffodils.

Queens: Rosa and Benny Wong, West Cunningham Park Civic Association

This dynamic duo of park stewardship – and Daffodil Project regulars – plays a critical role in the West Cunningham Park Civic Association, from planting and weeding to volunteering at health fairs and student recruit­ment events. And whether they’re showing up at City Hall early on a weekday morning for an NY4P-sponsored budget rally (as they did last spring) or driving to the store to pick up emer­gency water for a park event, they always travel as a team. According to Benny Wong, “when either of us tries to do it on our own, we can’t do it, so we have to stick together.”

Staten Island: Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden

Designated as a Cultural Center in September 1976, Snug Harbor comprises 83 bucolic acres of gardens, historical buildings, museums and a working farm in New Brighton. Once an early 19th-century home for retired sailors, the Center now celebrates its rich history while providing New Yorkers with a truly unique park experience. Ongoing work to restore its landmarked buildings has made Snug Harbor one of the largest adaptive reuse projects in the nation. The Center couldn’t have been a more enthusiastic, dynamic Daffodil Project participant in 2012, including providing the winning photo in last year’s online contest. After Hurricane Sandy, its staff joined NY4P to plant more than 1,000 daffodils in the Healing Garden, a living memorial to 9/11.

Special Recognition for tireless support of community volunteerism in the wake of Hurricane Sandy:  
New York City Council Member Vincent Ignizio

In the days and weeks following Hurricane Sandy, Council Member Ignizio, who represents Council District 51 in Staten Island, was an enduring and tireless advocate for his community, day in and day out. Using social media, Council Member Ignizio became a one-man volunteer coordinator, connecting constituents in need with volunteers looking to help – house by house, street by street. The Daffodil Project celebrates volun­teerism, and Council Member Ignizio found innovative ways – undaunted by the limitations of communication and travel after the storm — to support and encourage neighbors helping neighbors, bringing back their community together.

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