More than 200 attendees celebrate Earth Day at Phil Rizzuto Park

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ELIZABETH, NJ — On Friday, April 22, Groundwork Elizabeth, a local nonprofit organization, collaborated with local governments, businesses and the community at a “Boots Not Suits” Earth Day event in Union County’s Phil Rizzuto Park in Elizabeth.

Since 1970, Earth Day has been observed annually around the world, in recognition of the value of a clean and healthy environment. This year was no different in Union County, with many coming together for a heavily attended day of tree plantings, inspirational messages and camaraderie at the park.

Lucy Crespo, who is the Groundwork Elizabeth director of youth initiatives, with support from the Union County Board of County Commissioners, federal and state senators, the mayors of the city of Elizabeth and the township of Union, the Union County Parks Department, fellow nonprofits, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, organized this three-hour program at Phil Rizzuto Park, which is located at the intersection of North and Morris avenues, where the city of Elizabeth and the township of Union meet.

Groundwork Executive Director Jonathan Phillips notes that Groundwork can help lead efforts to continue to build more sustainable and equitable communities. “Taking care of the Earth on Earth Day is a personal and community obligation. It needs to continue each and every day. It’s something we all need to do.”

More than 66 trees were donated by Phillips 66 Bayway Refinery. Darren Bryden, of the city of Elizabeth, was the master of ceremonies of the program and introduced Elizabeth Mayor J. Christian Bollwage; Rebecca Williams, chairperson of the Union County Board of County Commissioners; state Sen. Joe Cryan of the 20th Legislative District of New Jersey; Diego Mazariego, who represents the Office of U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez; and Nancy P. Sadlon of Phillips 66 Bayway Refinery, who has worked hand in hand with Groundwork to improve the site since 2015.

Groundwork Green Team Youth leader Kayly Hernandez administered a “Climate Safe” pledge, asking all to leave the earth in better condition than they found it. After the ceremony, attendees had a chance to really make a difference. Under the direction of Curt Collier, from the Society for Ethical Culture, youths and adults came together and planted groves of trees, which will soak up rainwater, clean the air and provide a healthier habitat for the foliage and animals that live at the park.

“Events such as these remind us of the importance of maintaining a clean environment throughout our county, said Union County Commissioner Chairperson Rebecca Williams. “Groundwork Elizabeth has been an invaluable partner in the county’s vision of engaging the public in sustainability, environmental conservation and an overall effort to expand our “green” initiatives. Thank you to all who helped coordinate this wonderful event.”

United Airlines, Atalanta Corp., the local Elizabeth NAACP, the Terence C. Reilly School No. 7, Union County Recycling, the Pat Perkins Civic Association, the Port Authority of NY and NJ, Rutgers University Center of Environmental Exposure and Disease, city of Elizabeth Recycling Department and scores of volunteers were on hand to offer support for the program and to highlight their own commitment to preserving the Earth and promoting sustainability.

For more information about Groundwork Elizabeth, visit its website at or on any of its social media platforms.

For quick links to all environmental programs and activities supported by the Union County commissioner board, visit\

Photos Courtesy of Jonathan Phillips