ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - Clark residents, Lenny and Dawn Grieco, were the winners of the Fay Mathewson Volunteer Award at the New Jersey Recreation and Parks Association Conference in Atlantic City on February 25.  According to the NJRPA, the award is given to acknowledge and recognize individuals that are considered “Friends of Recreation, Parks and Conservation.”

Clark Recreation Director Ralph Bernardo nominated the duo and had many words of praise for their volunteerism.  “These individuals have been helping the Clark Recreation Department during my entire 14 years in my position. They do what they do with no expectations in return. They do not want praise or acknowledgment, as they have told me over and over again,” said Bernardo.  “They are thankful and grateful for all that recreation has given their children and now grandchildren, especially knowing that I worked alone most of my career. They love their town and get fulfillment and joy from giving back.”

Bernardo said the couple won the prestigious award above all others nominated throughout the state.  They were presented with an engraved glass award by members of the NJRPA at the conference.

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The Grieco’s gift of time and resources have been a source of wonder for Bernardo.  “I did not know them before I took the position. It was like they fell from heaven shortly after I started,” he said.   “It (the award) is much deserved for their many years of volunteer services to the Recreation Department and the Township of Clark.”

When asked about the work the couple has done for the recreation department, Bernardo shared a portion of the introductory speech he gave at the awards ceremony he said summed up their dedication.

"It is impossible to list all that they have done for me and the recreation department, but I would be remiss if I do not let you know just a handful of their kindness and generosity gestures. Mind you they work fulltime and are in their 60’s. Lenny works as a plumber and Dawn an administrator.  Lenny and Dawn are the first to jump in and help whenever I or the recreation department are in need. I don’t even get a chance to ask as they anticipate what needs to get done.

  • Skate park events – fall and spring – posting and delivering flyers to all the schools, supplying water and Gatorade out of their pocket. Giving up their Saturdays to help with registrations at the skate park and retrieving volunteers to teach and coach the kids to skateboard.
  • Lenny initiated the “Hooked on Fishing” program which started 4 years ago. Being an avid fisherman – Lenny went right into action purchasing 20 fishing poles – bait – tackle and worms. These two were the first at the pond teaching 20 children how to bait, cast, and reel in their catch. They even scouted out a few area ponds – knowing where the kids would definitely catch something even if just a sunny.
  • Before the Annual tree Lighting Event which is huge in Clark, Lenny and Dawn come in – scrub the kitchen, set up for the event, purchase hot chocolate, coffee, sugar, thermos ‘and pots all donated!!! At the completion of having over 1000 people come thru the rec center – they clean and disinfect the kitchen.
  • At our yearly Haunted House – Dawn dresses up – helps me decorate the museums lawn and then collects tickets. Days before the two of them drive around town with lawn signs that they paid for.
  • Dawn stops in my office two to three times a week to see if I have seasonal or major event flyers that need to be brought to the 5 schools in town.
  • They pick up food – water – cookies – pretzels – donuts for major events that I run including Tree Lighting, Trunk R Treat – Easter Egg Hunt – and the Summer Rec Camp just to name a few.
  • I kid Lenny that he will never be able to retire for the amount of money Dawn spends on the rec department.
  • During the building of our new park, Lenny and Dawn were here daily with coffee, donuts for the all the workers and volunteers from “Where Angels Play”. Lenny helped rip the old play fixtures out of the ground and install the new fixtures.
  • Lenny being a plumber has serviced our ice machine, stove, bathroom fixtures, and the pool again never charging and always Johnny on the Spot – no pun intended.

Their generosity goes far beyond an endless sea of giving – monetarily, time, talents and even includes their own family members, recruiting them - always with a smile, calm personality and enthusiasm. They are an asset to the rec department and township of Clark. Words cannot describe how I feel about this couple. A calming affect comes over me when I see them show up as I know everything will be all right."

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