Suzy Brandtastic Interviews Laura Skolar, Marc Wesson and Charlene Burke of the Jersey City Parks Coalition

Susan Newman (aka Suzy Brandtastic) interviews Laura Skolar, Charlene Burke and Marc Wesson of the Jersey City Parks Coalition.

The mission of the Jersey City Parks Coalition is to empower residents to develop, renovate, use and maintain their community parks and public spaces of Jersey City; thereby revitalizing neighborhoods and lifting communal and human spirits.

The Coalition aspires to build a great city-wide organization that sets the standard for, and spreads the principles of, democracy through community empowerment and the principles of world-class park management for the betterment of all residents.

The Coalition is committed to sustaining this operating model to provide a legacy for future generations of Jersey City residents and all users of park and public space.

The Jersey City Parks Coalition is a private, not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization founded in 2005 that assists in the development and maintenance of Jersey City’s parks and public spaces. All residents are welcome to join any of the member organizations working on parks and public spaces near you.

About Laura Skolar:
Laura began her community service in 1984 as a board member of the non-profit Heights Neighborhood Housing Services, consisting of residents, municipal government representatives and local business people. The positive experience of this public private partnership and the constructive work they accomplished in the Jersey City Heights was the impetus for her continued community service.

In March 2003, Laura became one of the founding members of Pershing Field Garden Friends (PFGF), a community based organization whose mission is to contribute to the well being of their community through gardening. Although gardening was the means to beautifying Pershing Field, their mission is just as much about people as it is about plants. Engaging the community & local children has been a fundamental part of this process and has contributed to the safety and well being of their neighborhood. She currently serves as president of the organization.

The following year PFGF became one of the founding members of the Jersey City Parks Coalition which has become a significant park and open space advocacy organization. Today they are twenty four members strong, representing every ward in Jersey City. Laura was elected president in 2012 and has worked to forge a durable relationship between the community and the City. Her proudest accomplishments to date are the organization’s Memorandum of Understanding that was recently signed with the City of Jersey City codifying the role of the Parks Coalition and the City regarding the development, use and maintenance of all City parks and public spaces and her role in the National Award Winning BIGDIG project.

About Charlene Burke:
Charlene is currently employed as a Grant Writer/Manager for the Hudson County Division of Parks and Community Service (2005 – present). One of her objectives is the coordinating, writing and submission of Capital Improvement grants to a variety of funders and the other is assuring the reimbursement of grant funds when projects are completed. In 2012, her grants were awarded $1 million and since July 2012, she has assumed the grant management duties for all outstanding awards to the Parks Department capturing $5.3 million in reimbursements.

She resides with her husband Gary by Lincoln Park in Jersey City and enjoys walking along the river in Lincoln Park West with her dogs, Dazzle and Busta. Charlene just obtained her Master Gardener certification from Rutgers University Extension office this past September. Other interests are Bird Watching and Nature Photography.

In addition, she is the Jersey City Parks Coalition Project Manager of the citywide community effort for National Make a Difference Day called the BIG DIG that won one of three National City Awards by USA WEEKEND Magazine/Newman’s Own/Points of Light in Washington, DC in April 2012. A core JCPC committee of Laura Skolar, Marc Wesson, Debbie DeVenizia and Charlene Burke make this event possible. In 2011, over 600 volunteers planted 18,000 daffodils and tulips donated by corporations, small businesses and individuals in 79 locations including parks, open spaces, libraries, schools and gateways. In 2012, over 1,000 volunteers planted 50,000 bulbs in more than 90 locations throughout the city and on October 26th, 2013 over 750 volunteers joined residents from 12 public housing sites throughout Jersey City to plant 60,000 tulips and daffodils.

In 2014, the JCPC may begin to expand the BIG DIG program to other Hudson County communities that have expressed an interest in engaging their citizenry in a Make A Difference Day project for their town.

About Marc Wesson:
Marc Wesson is the owner of the Tenmarc building in Jersey City and has operated and owned the 225,000 sq ft commercial building since 1985.

From 1972 to 2003 he managed 50 employees in a 40,000 sq. ft. commercial photo studio doing business with major national clients.

Photographic Concepts, Inc. became one of the largest still-life studios in the U.S., with a complete art department, E-6 color processing, and extensive prop department.

He turned the business over to six long-time employees, who have run the studio since 2003.

Marc has been the president of the Friends of Van Vorst Park, inc in Jersey City since 1996. A 501(c) 3 non-profit established in 1993 for the purpose of improving and maintaining historic Van Vorst Park in downtown Jersey City.
Marc has donated or raised over $200,000, for trees, plants, water systems, and a new dog run.

Sponsor a season-long farmers’ market, Shakespeare in the Park, Egg hunt, fundraising flea markets. Also, Movies-in-the-Park and a Halloween event jointly with the Van Vorst Park Association.
Volunteers 25-35 hours a week in maintaining the gardens and lawns of the park.

Marc is the treasurer of the Jersey City Parks Coalition.

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Sponsored by Frogs Are Green, spreading awareness and engaging kids around the world. Enter the 2013 photography and kids’ art contests today. To learn more about this cause Visit: http://frogsaregreen.org

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