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Photo courtesy of Northwell Health
Cynthia Gordon (center), a patient care associate at LIJ Medical Center, helps to beautify a space adjacent to Springfield Park in Springfield Gardens at a volunteer session for nurses from the centers Coronary Thoracic ICU.
By Patrick Donachie

Nurses from the Coronary and Thoracic Intensive Care Unit at LIJ Medical Center traded medical tools for gardening equipment when they volunteered to clean a small area of parkland adjacent to Springfield Park in Springfield Gardens Saturday morning.

About 20 nurses and other staff were on hand to volunteer at the green space at Springfield Boulevard and 146th Avenue. Some came after a 12-hour shift at the hospital still clad in their scrubs. Emily Kalberer, RN, the volunteer coordinator and assistant nurse manager at the ICU, said that when she asked her fellow nurses about what kind of volunteer activity they could engage in, many mentioned cleaning up a city park.

“We wanted it to be close to the hospital so that the night shift would come,” she said. “I wanted to do some team building and do something for the community.”

All of the volunteers were from the Coronary and Thoracic ICU. Cynthia Gordon, an LIJ patient care associate, said she lived near the park and noted that the park was in some disrepair before the nurses got to work.

“We’re trying to clean up this community,” she said while shoveling mulch from a full wheelbarrow into a circle around a growing tree. “There was just a lot of trash all over. And we’re just trying to pick it up and beautify it.”

The day was the culmination of a partnership between the volunteer group at the LIJ ICU and NYC Partnership for Parks, which coordinates volunteer opportunities to help maintain the more than 5,000 parks and properties in the New York area. In the spot where the nurses worked, the volunteers created a circle of mulch surrounding each tree. When it rains, the water will be slowed by the mulch, which allows the trees’ underground roots to take in water and nutrients at a steady pace without an inundation of rainwater. The mulch also prevents the excessive growth of weeds around the trees, and acts as a caution for weed wackers working in the area to let them know when they are too close to the trees.

The small area is situated across Springfield Boulevard from Springfield Park, which is approximately 24 acres and includes Springfield Lake at its center. Most of the trees within the larger park had been mulched, but trash sometimes accumulated in the smaller area.

The hope, the volunteers said, was to return at a later time and cover the entire area with mulch. Some of the nurses who came to the park from the night shift left early as they were scheduled for another shift that evening.

Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdonachie@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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