On Friday, September 30th CUMAC closed up programs and took the staff on a local field trip. The goal for the day was just to get to know each other, and the city in which we work (and for some, live) a bit better.
Our first stop was to Paterson’s Great Falls. This area received National Park recognition in 2009 and has seen a bit of a revival since. There are picnic areas and walking paths, and plenty of space to simply absorb the awe of the 77 foot high falls. On the day of our visit, it was grey and drizzly, but that did not stop staff from marveling at the powerful falls and surrounding views. A highlight of this stop was a personal victory for staff member Teresa, our beloved Thrift Shop manager. Teresa has a sometimes debilitating fear of heights, however arm-in-arm with Executive Director Pat, and surrounded by her CUMAC family, she faced that fear and walked across the pedestrian bridge above the falls – twice!
Second, we took a short walk down the hill to The Paterson Museum. There is a ton of information and visual interest packed into the space, and we highly recommend visiting on your own if you have the chance. We quickly learned that it was fitting we had just been to the Great Falls, as they are literally the driving force behind much of Paterson’s rich history, dating all the way back to its original inhabitation by the Lenape native people. As tour guide Robert Veronelli stated, “water is life” and the falls, and the Passaic River which they empty into, have represented nothing short of that for Paterson. The Passaic was a drinking and irrigation source for the Lenape; it was a vital trade route for over a century; it was the power behind turning Paterson into America’s first planned industrial city; and the hope is that the Falls will serve as one of the primary draws allowing Paterson to once again reinvent itself, this time as a tourist destination, and experience economic resurgence. In sharing that vision for the city, our guide Robert also shared that Paterson’s motto is “Spe et labore,” which translated from Latin means “With hope and labor.” As staff who work day in and day out to bring hope to the hungry and the struggling, those words resonated. We were reminded of our spot, of CUMAC’s role, in this great city.
Our final stop was to visit our friends at City Green. The Howard Sterling Memorial Garden that CUMAC christened in our parking lot in May was funded in part by a City Green “Dig In!” grant. While the City Green farm that we visited is in Clifton, they have supported the creation of dozens of community gardens throughout the city of Paterson, provided educational programming around gardening and healthy eating, and hosted farm markets in urban centers to offer affordable access to locally grown produce. While at City Green’s facility we got to experience some of their education programs first-hand, visit with their wildlife (goats and chickens abound!), and taste the fruits (or vegetables, to be exact) of their labor via a delicious cooking demo. We were grateful for the reminder of the importance of not just feeding people, but making sure we are providing the most nutritious food possible, and consider our friends at City Green an invaluable partner in food justice work.
Hunger isn’t going away overnight. But our day out of the office reinvigorated our drive to work together and continue serving our neighbors in need in this beautiful city. We are confident that with the collective “hope and labor” of our staff, board, volunteer force, donors, and many, many partners we will alleviate hunger and change lives.