Blair students beautify nonprofit campus

NEWTON. Marigolds now line the walkways of Project Self-Suffiency, and there are picnic tables and freshly painted fences, thanks to community effort.

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  • Kazuma Hirata '20 (left), Patrick Reardon '19 (right). (Photos by Laurie Gordon)

  • Students from Blair Academy prep the Project Self-Sufficiency grounds.

By Laurie Gordon

What started as the Day of Service six years ago is now affectionately referred to as “Blair Day” by Project-Self Sufficiency. It was held on Friday at the Newton campus of Project Self-Sufficiency and saw close to 70 students from Blair Academy planting, mulching, digging and beautifying.

“The students get a real sense of the community by leaving campus and coming here to help,” said Lorry Perry, Blair's Assistant head of School and Dean of Faculty. “The students really look forward to volunteering and making a difference by giving their time.”

Blair Academy senior Patrick Reardon, who hails from Doylestown, Pennsylvania and lives at Blair, will be attending Cornell in the fall.

“Project Self-Sufficiency helps so many people that it's an honor to come here and help them get the gardens and grounds ready,” he said.

Students assisted community volunteers with planting flowers, assembling and painting picnic tables, spreading mulch, painting fences, and working on other maintenance projects. By the end of the day, thousands of marigolds lined the campus walkways, and 100 pots of tomato and cucumber plants as well as 50 pots of flowers were distributed around the grounds. The gardens will provide fresh vegetables to the agency’s low-income clientele and developmentally disabled adults selected by Abilities of Northwest Jersey. Volunteers will care for the gardens well into the autumn.

“This Day of Service that is known as Blair Day here is something our staff looks forward to,” said Project Self-Sufficiency's Executive Director, Deborah Berry-Toon. “The day is filled with huge energy and the vegetables the kids helped plant will become tons of tomatoes ad cucumbers helping to feed those less fortunate. As to the beautification, it makes people feel welcome here and that's a great thing.”

“Hundreds of Blair Academy students volunteered at nearly 20 non-profit organizations across the region (including Project Self-Sufficiency),” said Head of School, Chris Fortunato.

Project Self-Sufficiency has improved the lives of low-income families residing in northwestern New Jersey for more than 30 years. The agency’s mission is to provide a broad spectrum of holistic, respectful, and comprehensive services enabling low-income single parents, teen parents, two-parent families, and displaced homemakers to improve their lives and the lives of their children through the achievement of personal and economic self-sufficiency and family stability. Since 1986 Project Self-Sufficiency has served more than 25,000 families. For more information, visit or call 973-940-3500 or 844-807-3500.

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