Giving Back

Family and Friends Gather to Volunteer and Honor the Memory of Habitat For Humanity Newark Volunteer

d085843f0e7c64874993_IMG_2564.JPG
Friends and relatives of Jeff Gardner pose for a group photo outside the house they helped renovate in Newark. Credits: Jordan T. Chester
147fa6c60e291b459112_IMG_2573.JPG
The house at 33 Gobble Street in Newark was were friends and relatives of Jeff Gardner volunteered for Habitat for Humanity in Newark on June 1. Credits: Jordan T. Chester
d6775f34358cc55edf0a_IMG_2570.JPG
A photo of a soon-to-be bedroom and bathroom inside the home at 33 Gobble Street in Newark. Credits: Jordan T. Chester
3ea91be249b496b3cef0_IMG_2579.JPG
The new kitchen inside the residence at 33 Gobble Street in Newark. Credits: Jordan T. Chester
516ee0afcdb68fb86702_IMG_2582.JPG
Counters for the kitchen inside the residence were needed, and brought into the home. Credits: Jordan T. Chester
de9e56ca22fb0231b3dd_IMG_2580.JPG
Volunteers spent time working in the living room area of the home. Credits: Jordan T. Chester
ddfd4de8ddbd656521c9_IMG_2557.JPG
Credits: Jordan T. Chester
a29bd1244d8bff854ad0_IMG_2558.JPG
The volunteers had the opportunity to help set up a kitchen sink for the kitchens inside the residences. Credits: Jordan T. Chester
b15ec109c18c6194493a_IMG_2553.JPG
An outside photo of the house at 33 Gobble Street in Newark. Credits: Jordan T. Chester
900478a3b1fbea07a2e1_IMG_2552.JPG
Some supplies for the day's renovations could be found inside the residence's detached garage. Credits: Jordan T. Chester
32d1f6c765a0113cb265_IMG_2548.JPG
A view of the upstairs in the home. Credits: Jordan T. Chester
cb78bb56c6fea9ea485d_IMG_2567.JPG
Jeff Gardner's friends and relatives displaying the various shirts made in his honor since 2002. The shirts read, “Shine on JBG”, Jeff’s initials, and feature a drawing of a sun, which had been Jeff’s tattoo Credits: Jordan T. Chester
ef299fd1d6da8b86ad79_IMG_2568.JPG
Jeff Gardner's siblings, Amy Kassan (left) and Eric Gardner (right). Credits: Jordan T. Chester
6da8a614cc2b670f2bde_IMG_2572.JPG
Amy Kassan (right) and Phil Wells working. Credits: Jordan T. Chester
3e7ceddec96883c0aa42_IMG_2574.JPG
Credits: Jordan T. Chester
08cd6ed0a134c83e94c9_IMG_2575.JPG
Credits: Jordan T. Chester
d085843f0e7c64874993_IMG_2564.JPG

NEWARK, NJ - Friends and family of Livingston native Jeff Gardner gathered to commemorate his life by spending a day volunteering for his favorite charity, Habitat for Humanity. Mr. Gardner, who died in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, dedicated his Saturdays to volunteering for Habitat for Humanity in Newark.

Every year since 2002, as a tribute to Jeff, his sister Amy Kassan organizes family and friends to gather to do a service project with Habitat for Humanity in his memory.

This year was the first year Jeff’s birthday fell on a Saturday during the first week of June.

“To make the day a little easier, we volunteer in his honor” Amy said of the annual event. Amy recalled that her brother had volunteered in Newark on Saturdays, as well as volunteering in places such as Honduras and Brazil.

Amy said each year she has shirts made up commemorating her brother and the work family and friends have done during the course of the day. The shirts read, “Shine on JBG," which stands for Jeff’s initials.  The shirt also features a drawing of the sun, which had been Jeff’s tattoo.

Long time friend Owen Burns, also recalled that Jeff would go to South America with bags filled with children’s clothes to donate them. He would come back empty handed.

This year, Jeff’s family and friends, many of whom are also Livingston natives, gathered at 33 Gobble Street in Newark. There, they helped Habitat for Humanity with the restoration of a two-family home.

In explaining the mission of Habitat for Humanity, the Outreach Coordinator for Habitat Newark, Spencer Reckford, stated “Our mission is to provide safe, affordable housing for low income families.”

Thomas “Bolt” Benner, who is a Volunteer Coordinator for Habitat for Humanity, also helps out with a variety of jobs at work sites. Thomas started off having groups come together to work on houses. “You kind of put some competition in there,” said Benner.

Thomas cautioned that often times, the “little things that no one sees” in a house create the most amount of work. When he began working on this particular home, there was nothing but “just sheet rock on the walls”, and the house required electricity and windows needed to be insulated.

The two-family home consists of two separate units. In each unit, the volunteers focused their energy on the home’s finishing touches, such as kitchen counter tops, appliances, and cleaning. Both units fashioned white paint, wood floors, and consisted of three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, kitchen, and a basement where access to a washer and dryer would be readily accessible.

Gardner’s family and friends made the trip to Newark from points far and near in order to help make the Newark residence suitable for living, all the while celebrating the life of Jeff Gardner.

Burns, who became friends with Jeff at age 16, said that he believed Jeff would be proud of the work his friends and family did, and the homes they helped to build. “We’ve built some great houses, we’ve built some homes I think he’d really be excited about,” Burns said of Jeff at the annual event.

“I put in a sink, I am doing the washer, I’m doing the dryer” said Debbie Mack Glucksman, a high school friend of Amy Kassan. “I became involved, unfortunately, after 9/11, in honor of Jeffrey.” Debbie also said that in addition to Jeffrey’s memory, the annual project was “in honor of every person who deserves a second chance.”

Eric Garnder, Jeff’s older brother, said of the gathering, “We come here to kind of honor him, its appropriate to help out families, we always felt it was something that made sense." Eric also recalled that his brother had loved to work with his hands, and that he was self-taught. Eric said “there are always ways you can honor someone's memory."

Eric, who traveled to Newark from the Washington D.C. area, said that he also volunteers closer to his home around September 11th each year to honor his brother. “What’s good about this is, you feel like you are making tangible progress,” Eric said. He also stated that some years, families who would move into the new or renovated homes would work with the volunteers, as they are required to perform a certain amount of hours working on homes.

Childhood friend Anthony Nittolo and wife Rebecca drove eight hours, from Raleigh, North Carolina, to take part in the home restoration in Newark. Since 2002, they have done the same nearly every year. Anthony knew Jeff since they were approximately four years old. Of the variety of tasks they have done on homes in the past, Rebecca Nittolo stated that the couple has done “siding, insulation and framing. Every year is a little different.”

Neil Weissman, Jeff Gardner’s cousin, who traveled to Newark from Westchester, Pennsylvania, said the two were close as youths, as they were separated by just six months in age. "He loved Habitat for Humanity, so it seemed like the logical project. It’s great to see everyone, but I wish Jeff was with us.”

In addition to hard work, the volunteers recalled memories of Jeff Gardner.

“Years ago, we were baseball card collectors. I needed one guy to complete my New York Mets collection and I had to give him eighteen cards for the one Met card I needed. It was a lousy Met.” joked Pat Wells.

Pat also recalled that he would play football with his brother, Phil Wells, along with Jeff, and Jeff’s brother Eric.

“I get to see these guys I haven’t seen in eons.” said Phil of the day. Phil added that “our whole childhood revolved around the Gardner family” and that it was “nice to get together.”

Jeff’s sister, Amy Kassan, said her brother Jeff was “a student of life. He could get down and dirty here, but he also loved fine wines”. Amy also conveyed that her brother had a lot of friends, and was willing to lend a helping hand to anyone in need. “He had a huge heart.”

Steven Kassan, Amy Kassan’s husband and Jeff’s brother-in-law, said of Jeff that “I think he was someone who grew up middle class, but was willing to give his time; he saw value in giving someone a home, something to strive for.”

Steven and Amy Kassan also recalled that Jeff Gardner used to say that there were only “good days and great days.”

After Jeff’s parents passed, away the proceeds from their house went to the building of a Newark home for Habitat for Humanity in his honor.  This final act of generosity was something his parents had wanted to do.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Livingston

Evolve Cycle And Fitness Presale Happening Now!

May 18, 2018

CALDWELL, NJ - Evolve Cycle and Fitness is now offering 10 classes for only $90. That’s only $9 a class when you purchase before its official Grand Opening on Friday, June 1, 2018. 

Only two weeks left to take advantage of this limited time offer! Call Martha at 973-979-5919 or click here to sign up.

Evolve Cycle and Fitness is a Premier Fitness Boutique ...

Save Up To 20% at CNP Treasures

WEST ORANGE, NJ — Are you still looking for the perfect gift for your mom or that special someone in your life for Mother's Day? Then CNP Treasures has you covered! Save up to 20% at CNP Treasures located at 14 Northfield Ave in West Orange.

Come by this weekend so we can help you find the perfect gift! Offer expires Sunday, May ...

Upcoming Events

Mon, May 21, 1:30 PM

Livingston Public Library, Livingston

Monday at the Movies: VICTORIA AND ABDUL

Arts & Entertainment

Carousel_image_858d52d71559e8db11c1_35608_125981954105061_273496_n-1

Thu, May 24, 6:30 PM

Heritage Middle School , Livingston

Livingston Public Schools Presents: 6th to 7th ...

Education

Carousel_image_27a1c651521c971f9a4d_1cdb218c0a6934197fac_b2a4cff22151f502f44b2552724bef71_xl

Thu, May 24, 7:00 PM

Livingston Public Library, Livingston

Understanding Hearing Loss

Health & Wellness

Montclair HS Student Reported Sexual Assault in All-Gender Bathroom, Officials Say

May 17, 2018

MONTCLAIR, NJ - According to published reports on Wednesday, Montclair Police officials are investigating allegations of sexual assault reported to have occurred in a bathroom at Montclair High School.

Montclair police officials state that officers received a report about an incident at the high school of a sexual nature that occurred around 3:18 p.m. on Monday. The ...

Still Time to Register for Livingston's Fall Intown Soccer

May 14, 2018

LIVINGSTON, NJ — Although a late fee may be applied as of May 13, registration is still open for the Fall 2018 Intown Soccer season in Livingston, including the high school co-ed program.

Livingston Soccer Club's (LSC) Intown program is all about sportsmanship, making friends, getting some exercise and learning a bit about soccer along the way. LSC provides the following ...

Funnel Cloud Appears over South Plainfield

May 16, 2018

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - A line of heavy thunderstorms roared through South Plainfield on Tuesday evening with a resident capturing a funnel cloud twisting down west and north of Spring Lake Park. The photo captures the funnel cloud, which can be seen in the left-hand side of the photo above.

The photo also captures a school bus driving by, and the South Plainfield Volunteer Fire ...

Please Sponsor Livingston's 82nd Annual Fourth of July Celebration!

May 7, 2018

Dear Livingston Friends:

Fourth of July always brings plenty of family activities for our entire town: the auto show, rides, swim contests, children’s entertainment, food provided by Dinosaur BBQ and others, Beer & Wine Café with live music, Main Stage show featuring Livingston’s own Epic Soul, and our Township’s always fabulous fireworks spectacular.

As a ...

Avenging Movie Credits

Warning! Nothing you read here will spoil Avengers: Infinity Wars because I didn’t understand it.

As a vibrant, relevant, totally hip and “with it” dad I am proud to say that I have now seen every movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  All nineteen of them.

I am less proud to admit that, of those Marvel movies that I can remember, I didn’t understand any of ...