The Garden Of Hope
By Post Friday, October 25, 2013, 09:38 PM EDT
The Garden of Hope began nearly two years ago adjacent to the front walkway; it was a few plants placed in the arrangement of a heart. The heart was dedicated in memory of Stephen Scheuermann, the former executive director of Buddies of NJ, Inc. (NJB) who gave 12 plus years of his life before suddenly passing away. Mr. Scheuermann was the heart and soul of NJB; he treated everyone with respect and worked tirelessly to make the organization most efficient for its clients.
Joe Gonzalez, a resident of the Harrison House in Paramus created the Garden of Hope as a part of his physical and mental recovery. Joe transformed a small part of earth into a wonderful garden that fills the entire walkway and lawn area of the Harrison House. His wish is to honor Steve and inspire those living with HIV to not give up. “When I first came to this house, everything seemed sad and unwelcoming. People in the house seemed negative; it didn’t feel like home,” said Mr. Gonzalez. “I was really lucky when the new house manager, Ray, gave me the opportunity to change this. He told me I didn’t have to, but I said to him that I wanted to make the home nice for everyone. Now, even people who drive past or come feel welcomed and comment on how beautiful everything is. It makes this house feel like a home.”
500 hand painted rocks emphasize the beauty of the thousands of flowers ranging from the 5 species of marigolds, petunias, tulips, lilies, lilacs, xenias, silvias, and even a 7’ tree filled with red roses in October. The little white rabbit, the owl, Rosie the scarecrow and more… were rescued from curbside trash and have become the guardians of a long season of healthy flowers. Through time, and the work of his hands, it has become largely admired. It is amazing to see families bring over relatives who reside in the hospital to share in just a bit of its beauty and inspiration. Joe has been commended by many neighbors, colleagues, and county officials on the garden’s beauty.
Joe learned from his father and his grandfather. His father, a great chef, taught Joe many techniques, recipes, ways to make things work. He always said, “We only use fresh ingredients. No canned anything. All soups and sauces need to be fresh. They taste better that way.” Joe also grew up on his grandfather’s farm in Puerto Rico where he learned about plants and the proper techniques to grow and harvest food. When he returned to NJ, Joe used the passion for food that he gained from his father to pursue his own career as a chef. Joe is an accomplished chef yet, more accomplished as being a human being; he’s the father of 2 beautiful girls Alicia and Gisette. Joe is a loving grandfather as well.
The virus led Joe into a deep depression. He had lost everything he had—his family, his job, and his home. Buddies accepted Joe into the Harrison House and he regained a healthy perspective on life. In many ways, this Garden of Hope has been an avenue for Joe to express himself: his pain, his joy, and his journey through life. It is a way of not giving up but giving back to the community.
HIV continues to be a prominent epidemic in the United States and worldwide. Organizations like Buddies of New Jersey help those infected and affected by HIV take control of their lives in a positive way which in-turn stops a progression to AIDS.