Suarez, an outreach coordinator in western Queens for Partnerships for Parks, helps connect the community to the Parks Department’s resources. She works with local residents to set up “Friends of” groups that look out for the neighborhood park.
“We help them with tools and staff support for service projects to beautify the park,” Suarez said. “We also provide them with free workshops for the community to understand the different skills they can gain to support their local green spaces.”
“When you go by any park, even in Queens, you can bet the nicest parks, if they haven’t been recently renovated, they usually have a “Friends of” group associated with it,” she added.
Partnerships for Parks also supplies small-scale grants to “Friends” groups to increase their capacity and bring fun programming to their parks.
“They’re supporting the work of people who are cleaning the park everyday,” she said about “Friends” groups. “On the weekends, they’re the first ones to call if there’s something wrong with the park.”
Suarez’s favorite part about her job is seeing the difference after a service project. She also enjoys seeing people’s joy when they know they’ve contributed to their local park.
“You completely made an impact, even if it’s just painting the fence or the benches,” she said. “They always get hooked from that first service project on.”
One challenge she faces is starting more “Friends” groups. That’s why Suarez wants to get the word out so more neighbors can learn about opportunities to be involved.
She encouraged interested volunteers to visit their website and find out who the local outreach coordinator is to get started.
“We will connect you with your specific districts and areas,” she said.