By Joshua Maloni
More than two dozen Wegmans employees took time to volunteer at the downtown Niagara Falls Boys & Girls Club Wednesday.
"Today is, basically, our community effort for Niagara County/United Way Day of Caring," store manager Michael Sigurdson said. "We've collaborated with area businesses such as Home Depot, Freatman Farms in Niagara County and the Wegmans on Military Road to put in some community vegetable gardens. We also added some flower and perennial gardens, as well. Plus, we did some healthy snacking education with over 100 children inside today."
Wegmans annually lends time and talent to such endeavors.
"One of our principles is making a difference in the communities we serve," Sigurdson said. "And we believe that making a difference for the Boys & Girls Club of Niagara Falls - and specifically working with our youth - is critical to our mission."
Diane Quarantello, director of quality programming at the Niagara Falls Boys & Girls Club, said she was impressed with the Wegmans workers.
"I want to tell you, as soon as they walked in this building, they hit the ground running," she said. "They just got moving. They cleaned - (and) not only did they build gardens, but four young ladies did healthy snacks with the children. They did a demonstration for over 120 children - between our camps out there and here - and it was freezing there. They were out there in the freezing cold grilling and cooking, and it was great.
"The rest of the staff, they (were) cleaning and doing some gardening. They cleaned our front lawn; they did some landscaping, which is phenomenal. Plus, they even cleaned some of the city market. They cleaned around the city market and got rid of all our weeds."
While 120 or so children took part in activities Wednesday, "We have over 1,000 children that are registered at the Boys & Girls Club, between our extended-day program, our all-star cheerleading, our basketball and our afterschool programs," Quarantello said.
Community support, she explained, is vital to meeting the children's needs.
"We can't do it ourselves," Quarantello said. "We depend on the community to come in and help us out with everything and anything. Not just volunteering for this, but volunteering for our computer labs, our wood shop or afterschool programming with the children.
"These people have the expertise. It's wonderful. They have the knowledge and expertise - especially these young ladies who did the nutritional snacks. They're going to be doing it with our children at our cooking camp."
"All of that combined is really helpful," she said.
Each garden was made possible by a donation from an area business.
The Niagara Falls Boys & Girls Club borders 17th Street and the city market.
Amanda Tabaczynski works on a flowerbed at the Niagara Falls Boys & Girls Club.