A local Eagle Scout project has added a new pavilion and table to the garden on the Sisters of St. Joseph campus in Brentwood, which will serve as an improved way for the community to share in the garden’s harvest and fresh eggs.
James Pizaro, 17, of Levittown, said that the Sunday ribbon cutting of the pavilion and the addition to the garden was heartening and the culmination of nearly a year of work.
“All the work we got done was so fulfilling,” Pizaro said. “It felt like the whole community coming together to help…It will be so much better for them.”
Pizaro, the junior assistant scoutmaster of Levittown’s Troop 316, raised $3,500 to fund his Eagle Scout project, a leadership community service project that is one of the final steps before becoming an Eagle Scout.
On Sunday, he also presented a check for $2,183 made out to the sisters. A gathering of people including fellow Scouts and his parents looked on with pride.
“It’s great to watch him go from this little kid running and screeching to a young man who takes charge,” said his mother Ann, also of Levittown.
Sister Mary Lou Buser, 83, said that the garden’s table had previously been out in the open and that the produce offered to the community was often splattered with rain. She said that residents are welcome to take what’s on the table and leave a donation if they so choose.
“What we have we share,” Buser said. “We want very much to be open to the people in the area and anybody who wishes can come in.”
The new pavilion and table will enable the sisters and garden staff to donate their harvest in a more practical and welcoming way, said Heather Ganz-Bolkas, 33, the garden ministry manager.
“This is a community venture…it is certainly going to assist the garden’s ability,” said Sister Mary Ann Cashin. “Any mission that helps who we are and what we stand for is welcome here.”
The garden is part of the Sisters of St. Joseph’s 212-acre campus, which also includes a solar panel installation, a convent, farmland, and a nursing home. It also currently houses the MDQ Academy, Suffolk County’s first Islamic school.
The campus was first purchased in 1896, and over the years, has housed multiple schools and a women’s college. Today, more than 100 sisters live on the campus and they describe themselves as women of the 21st century who focus especially on justice, the environment, and advocating for those in need.
“I think a lot of people just think of us in funny habits,” said Sister Catherine Gitzgibbon.
“We are ordinary people,” said Sister Eileen Kelly, 70.
Sister Buser said that the garden has become an increasingly important part of their ministry and that it reinforces their mission of sharing "how important the earth is and how connected we all are to the earth."