PATERSON — Marilyn Clark of Woodcliff Lake decided she wanted to do something to help Paterson residents after reading a story in The Record in 2017 about the city’s Habitat For Humanity housing program.
Therefore, Clark made a donation to the Habitat Corporation that allowed four low-income families to purchase new homes in Paterson. But it didn’t stop there. Next Clark wanted to make a contribution to Paterson City Youth Programs.
This charitable desire culminated in the 87-year-old’s recent donation of $1 million to expand the Great Falls Youth Center.
“This is needed in the city of Paterson,” Clark said Thursday, ahead of the groundbreaking ceremony for the expansion. “Often, if they don’t have the proper support system, they can get into trouble. The incarceration rates are appalling.”
Clark’s last generosity never happened. She left an audio message at the nonprofit group that runs the Youth Center, a New Jersey-based community development center. But this message got lost in the shuffle.
Determined to make her contribution, Clark turned to Reverend Arturo Luis of Emmanuel Church in Ridgewood. Lewis grew up in Paterson and got in touch with Von McCoy, the city’s former business manager, who put him in touch with NJCDC CEO, Bob Guarasky.
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As a result, Clark went on a Patterson tour with Guarasci, which led to her donation to the Youth Center.
“We’re still looking for additional funds,” Guarasky said when asked where the project would be without Clark’s help.
The NJCDC opened the Youth Center on Front Street, near Great Falls, about five years ago, to remodel the former Veterans Hall. Originally, the center was employed by about 100 teenagers, but soon the demand for youth center programs outweighed its construction.
“The kids kept coming, and that’s a good thing,” Guarasky said.
The total cost of the project is $3 million, according to NJCDC. It will include the expansion of the existing building which will include a new multi-purpose room as well as the construction of a new building called “College Central” to help students enter and succeed in college, and a podcast studio.
The nonprofit group is the projects that will have new facilities open by next spring.
The rest of the project money comes from a $1.5 million grant from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs and a $500,000 community development grant, and federal funding channeled through the city of Paterson.
Guarasci said Clarke’s donation is the largest gift his agency has ever received from a single person.
Unlike some people in their years, Clark didn’t hesitate to say she was 87 when a reporter asked her her age.
“I am very proud of that,” she said. “How lucky I am to be 87 years old, in good health, and active in my community and church.”
On Thursday, the people at the NJCDC in Patterson felt very fortunate that Clark remains active in the community.
Joe Malinconico is an editor at Patterson Press. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org