Princeton, N.J. – The virtual became real on May 9, at 5:30 p.m., as hundreds tuned into Princeton TV’s broadcast of D&R Greenway’s Gala Watch Party and Donald B. Jones Conservation Award Ceremony. Viewers were treated to intimate interviews of awardees –Phyllis Marchand and John Rassweiler of Princeton–, whose unique life experiences launched powerful personal conservation commitments that have resulted in preserved land in local communities. Those who missed the virtual Gala may view it on D&R Greenway’s website www.drgreenway.org.
Christopher DeGrezia, Esq., [Partner, Fagre, Drinker, Biddle & Reath, LLP], could have been standing on a patio at Greenway Meadows, rather than before a Zoom camera, welcoming all. The land trust’s energetic Board Chair personified the spirit of participation infusing the entire event. Noting that “We could not imagine that we would begin our fourth decade as a land trust amidst… a viral pandemic’s sweeping through the world,” DeGrezia cited public enthusiasm communicated ever since D&R Greenway’s “Our Open Space is Open” message was launched as the pandemic became official. “Neighbors near and far are find[ing] comfort on our trails, discovering respite in nature.” DeGrezia assured participants that, upon D&R Greenway preserves, “Social distancing guidelines are being honored, without proving deterrents to enjoyment.”
Co-Chair of the Board of Trustees Wendy Kvalheim, owner of Mottahedah and Princeton resident, announced a matching challenge. Vanessa Sandom and her husband Carl Seiden of Hopewell offer a 1:1 match to raise a total of $10,000 toward the event’s overall $50,000 goal. Funds will create a Forever Place, named for each awardee. At D&R Greenway’s St. Michaels Farm Preserve in Hopewell, a wildflower meadow will be planted in the footprint of the former Orphanage with native plants essential to pollinators. “Marchand Meadow” will honor Phyllis Marchand’s decades of service. An existing gap in the Sourlands will become the “Rassweiler Restoration Forest”. One hundred native trees will be planted to support neotropical songbirds in breeding and migration seasons.
Donations to these forever places can be made through D&R Greenway’s website, www.drgreenway.org. Anyone who gives $100 or more will receive a gift, from a D&R Greenway buff that can be used now as a mask, to a gift box of three “Wines of Preservation” from Old York Cellars with art labels by James Fiorentino, a collector’s edition. See “CHALLENGE” below.
2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the annual Donald B. Jones Conservation Award, which has been given to a Governor, farmers, community leaders and scientists. Each of these recipients manifests “selfless commitment resulting in making a difference in land preservation, land stewardship and public trails in New Jersey.”
This year’s awardees were interviewed at home via Zoom during the pandemic, ensuring social distancing throughout this inspiring video tribute. Viewers were granted an ‘up front and personal’ experience of the intensity, energy and commitment of each of these local heroes. Both revealed early life influences that had brought him or her to care about land and community service. The video presentation included life photos going back to childhood, footage of preserved landscapes, interviews with the awardees and personal tributes by colleagues. Former Princeton Recreation Director Jack Roberts and retired ETS Vice President Eleanor Horne were among those featured.
Award winner, John Rassweiler, PHD
“Phyllis and John are my heroes,” said D&R Greenway President and CEO Linda Mead, who interviewed the awardees in the post-party Zoom event for sponsors and donors. Having worked intensively with both for nearly 25 years, Mead noted, “No one speaks more eloquently about the health benefits of nature than Phyllis, who talks of the healing aspects of being outdoors to soak up sun and fresh air.” Mead continued, “John first introduced me to the Sourland forest, where he warned me not to pick skunk cabbage because I wouldn’t like the smell. His strategic volunteering was critical to our young organization since our early years.”
Award winner, Phyllis Marchand, former Mayor of Princeton
Commenting upon the announcement of her award, former Princeton Mayor Marchand asserted: “I care about D&R Greenway because I care about the legacy I will leave to my grandchildren and to all future generations…take care of each other, take care of our planet and enjoy ‘Land for Life!’” Retired businessman John Rassweiler, having donated significant time and funding over many years, declared, “D&R Greenway is one of my lead charities because its objectives have been consistent and are ones I strongly support. Its organization and execution always have been at a high professional level.” Rassweiler answered a request re advice to D&R Greenway for the next 25 years, “Plan carefully and be flexible. Change will always happen. The priorities and work that is important today will be different tomorrow.”
Eleanor Horne, post-event, highlighted the opportunity of hearing. “what the awardees had to say.”
Even as the post party was unfolding via Zoom, written and telephoned comments began to pour in. Praise began with “Stellar!” followed by, “I was so inspired, I sent a donation.” One viewer called twice to insist, “You can all be so proud of what you have achieved together.”
D&R Greenway provides links to for those who missed the engaging video interviews with the awardees: Phyllis Marchand: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91PPOyPHfQ0&t=285s and John Rassweiler: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBYUgEXzS-w&t=6s
Donation Match Challenge: With thanks to Vanessa Sandom and Carl Seiden, we are offering a 1:1 match with a goal of raising $10,000. To participate in the match challenge, donate here, and write “Match” in the Notes section.
Those who donate $100 or more will receive in the mail 2 D&R Greenway buffs – perfect to wear as a stylish mask, or on a cold day! Those who donate $500 or more will receive an author-signed copy of Roadside Geology of NJ by David Harper – a vivid book to catalyze and enhance driving tours. Those who donate $1,750 or expand their Gala donation to that amount will receive a gift-boxed set of D&R Greenway’s new Three Wines for Preservation, with fine-art labels by artist and Trustee, James Fiorentino.