Giving Back

Montclair Grass Roots Recognized by Essex Freeholders for 50 Years of Service


MONTCLAIR, NJ - Montclair Grass Roots was recognized for 50 years of service to the community by the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders on Wednesday.

Freeholder Vice President Brendan Gill gave a commendation honouring Montclair Grass Roots summer program in celebration of their 50 Years of service.

Family, friends and town officials gathered at the Township of Montclair Council chamber to recognize one of Essex County's longest running summer camps.

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Montclair Grass Roots, founded in 1968 by Wallace and Celine Choice, has been operating out of Glenfield Park since. The summer camp offers the community an affordable and safe summer camp option.  

Sponsored by Gill, who opened his address by welcoming Wallace and Celine to the chambers, he asked that they join him at the podium to accept the commendation.

Joining Gill to present the commendation, were Freeholder Cynthia Toro, Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson and 4th ward Councilor Renee Baskerville.

"We ( Gill & Toro ) are both pleased to come here tonight to honor the Montclair Grass Roots Summer Program serving the residents of Montclair and Essex County for over 50 years." 

The attending audience erupted in a rousing round of applause.

Taking to the podium, Toro began, "It is an honor for me to be here today alongside Freeholder Gill to read the Proclamation to Mr & Mrs Choice. This afternoon i want to recognize Montclair Grass Roots camp."

She continued, "A few highlights beginning with its start in 1968 founded by Mr. & Mrs Choice."

Montclair Grass Roots started with 35 children. Under the Choices stewardship, the Grass Roots program has serviced as many as 800 children for one summer and over 15000 campers ages 3 to 18 since its founding over 50 years ago.

Providing an affordable quality summer camp and activities that include swimming, basketball, art and field trips, are the purpose and function of this community staple.

Gill added, "This afternoon we commend you. Mr. & Mrs. Choice, you have truly created a program that has impacted many lives."

Upon receipt of the proclamation, the Choices were asked to say a few words.

Celine began by thanking Gill and fellow freeholder members for recognizing Montclair Grass Roots for its over 50 years of community service and thanked all that have been involved in assisting in the running of the Grass Roots program.  

She also recognized the current Board Members Patricia Hurt, Kellia Sweat, Katherine Nicholas, Kim Nelson-Edwards, Bruce Taylor, Sandy Hunter, Tyrone Williams and Wally Choice, Jr. with their cooperation and support.

Celine closed with, "The rainbow of our program, as it has always been, is to provide a helpful, safe and enjoyable summer for the campers in the program."   

Wallace spoke briefly thanking the freeholders and saying, "Its been a great run and an honor to service the community."

Choice, Jr.  jokingly shared, "I always thought when I was younger, my parents created Grass Roots to get rid of me." 

"But many of us who have gone through Montclair Grass Roots know that the program was of great importance in its mission as parents worked during the summer. Many of our first camping experience and our first jobs came via the Grass Roots program." 

Shani Stephens a parent whose two children attended the program said, "Montclair Grass Roots is a great help in providing families and children with a safe environment, a full day of activities when school is out that include trips, meals and character building."

She added, "It's affordable for the 6 weeks that the program runs."

As part of the continued celebration, a documentary is currently in the making documenting 50 years of the program. Spearheaded by Roz Miller Choice and Wally Choice, Jr., they are asking that if you have ever attended the program as a camper, staff, volunteer or counselor, to contact and share your story.

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