Bissel Gardens – the root of summer fun

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After weeks of sweat equity helped further transform a previous dumping ground into a prosperous community garden, a group of students from the Summer Youth Employment Program bid farewell to Bissel Gardens.

On Wednesday, August 13, the young workers gathered at their worksite, 4521 Barnes Avenue, to celebrate their extensive progress at the Bissel Gardens annual picnic.

Enjoying a burger with her fellow gardeners, Grace Dodge High School freshman Angelique Lopez said she was excited when she heard about the program earlier this year.

“I like gardening and I wanted to learn more about plants,” she said. Upon her selection from the Summer Youth Employment Program lottery, which Mosholu Montefiore Community Center provides, Lopez began her work at Bissel.

Throughout the seven-week program she said she learned some interesting tidbits about mosquitoes, such as their attraction to water and plants, among other items of interest.

“I also learned about the propagation area,” she explained. “I was wondering why we had to plant so many trees.”

A group of 25 students from throughout the Bronx met five times a day, for six hours each day to tend to Bissel Gardens.

“We think children should learn nature and how to be outside, so we’re here to teach them job skills,” Bissel Gardens president Russ Le Count commented.

Pelham Parkway resident Jesse Hernandez said for him, the program did just that.

“I learned what an actual job would be like,” he explained about the necessity to get up early, shower and act in a professional manner at the work site. “And I made some great friends along the way.”

Throughout the summer, the students planted trees, pulled weeds and painted signs alerting visitors of the garden’s five sections, which include a children’s garden and community planting space.

Lopez said that while she’s sick of weeding, the experience prompted her to spend more time with her grandfather and help him attend to his garden in Peekskill.

Bissel Gardens came to life in 1992 after local resident Theresa Scalera had the vision to revitalize the abandoned area in the Wakefield section of the Bronx.

Through the assistance of the NYC Department of Sanitation and numerous volunteers, approximately six cars, four vending machines and several large piles of rubble were removed from the site.

Since then, extensive community collaborations and assistance of the Summer Employment Program helped transform the 2-acre site into its present glorious and very fruitful state.

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