Boys and Girls Club Members Create Tonawanda Tree Farm

8:17 PM, Jun 18, 2011   |    comments
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TONAWANDA, N.Y.- On what used to be an empty lot off Niagara Street now sits a growing movement, but it hasn't come without hard work.

"They cut the grass, they maintain, pull weeds, weed wack, water, take care of the plants out front," said Bill Swanson, Superintendent of Highways for the Town of Tonawanda.

He's talking about the teenage members of the Boys and Girls Town Club, who have been working for three years to transform the lot into a tree farm designed to help replace those lost in the October Storm. The group of about sixteen students are part of the Keystone Club, a faction of the Boys and Girls Club for teens that focuses on leadership and community service.

The tree farm project was paid for by community donations, and depends upon the expertise of adult mentors from the town's highway department and Re-Tree Tonawanda.

"We wanted to come in and do something with the kids, teach them a skill, a tangible skill they might be able to take to a future job," said Jennifer Ratajzzak, a Re-Tree Tonawanda board member.

The project runs in a three-year cycle, with this year being the first the original group of trees was mature enough to plant. The volunteers planted them in front of area homes, free of charge.

Last summer, the members of the Keystone Club practiced pruning and trimming across the street from the tree farm, at the GM Tonawanda Engine Plant.

"It's something we can pass on to the younger kids, so each time we get the new generation of kids in, we can have this going on until our kids are here, our grandkids are here, and that's what we're hoping for, so it's a long-term thing," said 19-yaer-old Jim McDonald, a Boys and Girls Club staff member and advisor of the Keystone Club.

"Kids involved in this program lean to do things that they never though they could do, and they're learning something about themselves, and that is the best benefit that comes across to all of them," said Phil Penichter, Chief Professional Officer at the Boys and Girls Club of the Northtowns.















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