EDISON — The Tzu Chi Foundation of Central New Jersey is the recipient of the N.J. Clean Communities Council’s (NJCCC) 2018 Volunteerism Award for its “outstanding” 16-year commitment to a cleaner and healthier Edison.
Tzu Chi is an international humanitarian organization whose mission is to relieve the suffering of those in need and create a better world for all, according to its website. Charity is at the forefront of their mission.
Since 2009, volunteers from Tzu Chi’s Edison chapter have conducted monthly cleanups at man-made Lake Papaianni, which is in a 15-acre municipal park near Edison Town Hall on Municipal Boulevard. Soon after, Tzu Chi members also began to host regular cleanups at the historic Oak Tree Pond at Oak Tree Pond Park, on Oak Tree Road and New Dover Road. The park is the site of a 1777 Revolutionary War skirmish during the Battle of Short Hills.
“Tzu Chi’s commitment to our town actually began back in 2002,” Edison Health Director Jay Elliot said, explaining that members of the Buddhist service organization, based in Cedar Grove, initially volunteered to assist at Edison’s Family Day and its Fall Festival at the time.
Its volunteers — who range from senior citizens to youngsters — soon began to pitch in at local Earth Day celebrations, roadside and park cleanups, and they now host a booth on weekends at the Edison Farmers Market to promote healthy nutrition.
“Tzu Chi’s sincere concern for the environment and their long-term dedication to improve Edison’s quality-of-life is just outstanding,” NJCCC Executive Director Sandy Huber said. “We applaud their volunteer spirit and their hard work.”
Elliot said Tzu Chi’s enthusiasm is also an inspiration to others. He noted Tzu Chi members helped marshal volunteers from John P. Stevens High School, local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, the Lions Club and Rutgers University to join their cleanup efforts.
The cleanup efforts have removed aluminum cans, glass bottles, candy wrappers, plastics, cigarette butts and, occasionally, larger items like tires and bicycles that get dumped on public property or roadsides, according to Elliot, who also serves as the local Clean Communities coordinator.
“Tzu Chi’s volunteers are terrific role models, raising community awareness about litter abatement, recycling and the effect that climate change has on our environment,” Elliot said. “I really wish their motto ‘No trash left behind’ would become everyone’s motto.”
New Jersey Clean Communities is a non-profit, statewide, comprehensive, litter-abatement program created by the passage of the Clean Communities Act, in 1986, according to its website.