Published in U.S. Catholic, April 2011
A group of young people in the Bronx finds that by beautifying an old eyesore, they’ve unleashed a desire to serve their community.
Grass and young trees line his path through Concrete Plant Park, named after the factory that was once on the site. Some of the old factory structures remain—but they’ve been transformed into public art.
On a sunny September afternoon, a young family sits in the grass, a boy casts a fishing line into the Bronx River below the promenade, and a few teens lounge in a reading circle, as Shuffler tours the park with part of his team from Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice (YMPJ). Two of the teen workers, Shanay Sneed and Andre Rivera, approach their peers in the reading circle to tell them about YMPJ, the force behind the park.
“My greatest joy is to see people using this park,” says Shuffler, director of YMPJ. “That’s a reward. The environment definitely transforms and connects people just because of its beauty and what it does for your soul, and I think we see it right here.” …