By Jon Dinan
LIBERTY Achieve Rehab and Nursing Facility Resident Council President John Lundy did the ribbon cutting honors at the recent unveiling of the property’s new outdoor garden site.
The three planters at the garden site are filled with herbs, vegetables, and flowers, and are wheelchair height so patients have the ability to enjoy the garden at a comfortable level.
Planters were donated by the local Home Depot, and soil was contributed by DJM Dealers.
Before the unveiling commenced, Achieve Administrator, Jay Zelman addressed the gathering of patients, employees, and volunteers. He thanked them all for coming before he led the group, who was provided with various percussion instruments, in a Johnny Cash version of “You are my Sunshine.” After which, he recited a written reflection of what a garden represents.
Following his reading, Zelman turned the microphone over to Lundy, who thanked the rec department, and those involved with the garden project. He then took a moment to remember the late Carmella Somers, an Achieve employee who died in February at the age of 46. He would go on to note that the garden was built in her honor and memory.
Somer’s 23-year-old daughter Tricia, holding 10-month-old son, Sebastian Mirra in her arms, bravely reflected on her mother’s untimely passing.
After Tricia’s heartfelt speech, Achieve’s Director of Volunteer and Community Services, Debbie Worden stepped forth and thanked the workforce developers and the Youth Program workers for all their hard work.
She then presented Youth Program participants with a certificate acknowledging their completion of the program, along with a goodie bag as a token of the facility’s appreciation. They were Brianna Jackson, 16, of Liberty, Tanganyicka Hackett, 20, of South Fallsburg, Cheyanne Chessda, 15, of Liberty, Alyssa Lamendola,14, of Liberty and Daniel Velez, 20, of Livingston Manor.
“The planters are designed to be self sufficient, and mimic home gardening,” Worden said.
“The project really fell together and came out nicely, and everyone at Achieve is so grateful to the young men and women who helped put it all together,” she added.
The young men and women who planted the garden are part of Sullivan County’s Summer Youth Employment Program.
The program which is 95 percent state funded and 5 percent WIA (Workforce Investment Act) funded, operates on a $110,000 per year budget.
Employees are taught basic skills such as reading, writing and arithmetic. They are also taught business essentials like how to make decisions, think creatively, work with others, and manage time and money.
Achieve is just one of 15 sites working with the Sullivan County Center for Workforce Development offering this opportunity. Other locations include: De Hoyas Park, Dillon Park, and the Sullivan County Government Center. At these various sites around the county, young people within the ages of 14-20 were given a chance to gain professional experience, increase their business knowledge, and improve interpersonal, and organizational skills.
“It’s lovely for Sullivan County because the area is able to get some help, and it allows these kids to get a little bit of money in their pockets, which gives them a sense of pride. It’s also an excellent bonding experience. Everybody wins,” Center for Workforce Development Employment and Training Specialist Kim Hill-James said.
The Summer Youth Employment Program gives 60 young adults with certain life barriers the opportunity to work 1,600 hours over a six week period at $7.25 an hour. If they choose to come back for a second year, employees are given a 25 cent per hour raise, and are normally placed indoors, in an office environment. This depends however on both performance and personal preference.
“We hope that by the end of two years with us they’ll be able to nail an interview and get a job no problem,” Hill-James noted.
In her fourth summer with the program, Hill-James works alongside Renee Vandermark, a fellow training specialist at the Center for Workforce Development, and the Youth Summer Program Crew Leaders: Catherine Paci, Kathy Kreiter, and Kailyn Briggs to bring to the community that all its members are able to benefit from.
“It’s been a wonderful experience. Its amazing how much they’ve grown into responsible young adults. Many have learned to save their money to provide for themselves and their families by buying things like clothes and cell phone minutes. It really gives them a sense of ownership,”said Paci.
Added Kreiter, “My crew of young men has been unbelievable. It doesn’t feel like it has been six weeks because everyone has been so cohesive. To come together the way they have is really something.”