My name is Larry Hilton Jr. and I am with the 4th and Inches Foundation. I started my “tour of duty” with the JFK Spirit Garden totally by accident. I was searching for help with the “Adopt a Park” program and stumbled upon the Westside Park Community Garden.
It looked as if someone needed help maintaining the garden so I did a bit of research and connected with Robin Regenburgh.
We met and began throwing ideas at each other on how we could take the garden to another level. My idea was to get the high school students involved since it was so close to the garden. I tried to contact the Green Club without much success.
I emailed them, left messages, visited the school asked other teachers I knew for help but could not get a response. Finally I had my twins,
who were seniors at the time, pretend they were interested in the Green club (don’t judge me man) and then I got a response. I explained my ideas and was told, “I have heard all of this before and have not seen any real contribution”. So Robin, my children and I set out to build a JFK Spirit Garden.
We braved the elements, fought off swarms of killer bees, ran from bears…Ok not really… but it was really hot some days. I went to the Paterson DPW asking for help and, after about 10 “I’m still here and I’m not leaving” visits, got them to donate paint. Red and Black paint! Low and behold, a Spirit Garden was born! We again went out painted the fence in school colors and pulled enough weeds to feed a herd of 1,000 longhorn cattle. People started to notice. I went back to the school and said, “How you like me now?” I spoke better English but you get the idea. The Green club did not have an outdoor garden so they welcomed our effort.
I applied for a small grant and got other donations of material from community members and took that to the Industrial Arts Teacher, I hope I don’t date myself by calling him that, who created picnic benches that we also painted in school colors.
We have an 8’ tall knight who guards the garden from the wrath of evil doers overknight (clever huh?). We added steeping stones with JFK Alumni and boy I’m telling you the community of students and the community in general is on board! So take a stroll down “JFK SPIRIT GARDEN LANE”, yes we now have the privilege of having our own street sign, and see what a community garden is all about!