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Featured Mini-Grantee | Pershing Field Garden Friends

2024-07-08T18:48:58-04:00July 8th, 2024|

Community Nature Events

Pershing Field Garden Friends is a community-based organization that seeks to beautify neighborhoods, celebrate diversity, and contribute to the well-being of surrounding Jersey City Heights residents through gardening and nature events.

HealthierJC + Pershing Field Garden Friends

Pershing Field Garden Friends believes that a Culture of Health means nurturing the mind, body, and spirit through exposure to and an appreciation of nature. 

Kristin Weir, a journalist at the American Psychological Association, cites that “from a stroll through a city park to a day spent hiking in the wilderness, exposure to nature has been linked to a host of benefits, including improved attention, lower stress, better mood, reduced risk of psychiatric disorders, and even upticks in empathy and cooperation.”

In alignment with HealthierJC, Pershing Field Garden Friends understands that beautification of parks and public spaces positively impacts quality of life, improves the health of citizens, lowers crime and drug related activity, and fosters neighborhood fellowship and revitalization.

How was the Mini-Grant Used?

The HealthierJC mini-grant funded programs that taught participants how to observe, interact with, and integrate nature into their lives for a healthier, less stressful body and mind.  The community was encouraged to exercise in open spaces, and gained an appreciation for the value of trees, gardens, and open space.  Highlights of the Pershing Field Garden Friends programming schedule in 2023 are summarized below. 

  • In partnership with the Flat Rock Brook Nature Center, the Birds of Prey program brought hawks, owls, falcons, and other regional birds for people to see animals up close, and learn about their natural habitat.
  • Nature Journaling taught children how to observe nature and record what they see. It was conducted by Athena Toledo, an art therapist who specializes in using the senses to create art. 
  • The Moth event was connected to an internationally recognized week of moth observation. Pershing Field Garden Friends provided a set-up to attract moths, and distributed field guides to participants to identify moths and provide information about the moth genome, lifecycle, behavior, role in the ecosystem, and cultural folklore.
  • Yoga in the Park took place weekly and was taught by Meraki, a local, women-owned business. Meraki partnered with Pershing Field on a series of yoga sessions attended by 15 to 20 residents of all ages in an outdoor setting.
  • Fall Festival engaged a group of children to walk through the park and participate in art and nature activities that stimulated creativity and social interaction.
  • Nearly 3,500 flower bulbs were planted throughout Jersey City during The Big Dig event. Bulb planting and basic gardening skills were taught by experienced Pershing Field Garden Friends, who encouraged participants to take home plants to enhance their neighborhood blocks. 

These Pershing Field Garden Friends programs served an estimated 180 low-income and minority residents, ranging in age from 5 to older senior citizens from Wards C and D.  Based on the latest census data, the minority groups in these wards are South Asian, Hispanic, and African American who actively participated, volunteered to assist, and encouraged neighborhood engagement.

Making a Difference…

“Growing up in apartments, people have historically not
had a yard, nor have they ever dug in dirt. It is a change
for them to come into garden, to dig in the dirt, and
then see the rewards of what a garden can produce.”
— Debby DeVenezia, President, Pershing Field Garden Friends

“Planting a garden is exciting,” DeVenezia said.  “It instills patience and anticipation.”

Gardeners wait six months, from October to April. “And then they come back to see shoots coming up, then flowers bloom in succession, daffodils, then tulips, then allium,” DeVenezia said. “It teaches a lot of life lessons and ways of being.”

Seeding a potted plant in school, she said, doesn’t compare with this experience. “Daffodils first appear, then tulips, and then we wait with bated breath for the alliums to appear.”

For more information, visit the Pershing Field Garden Friends site at