Tuesday, August 12, 2008

NEAT celebrates year with garden party

By: JENNIFER SPRAGUE , Press staff
MIDDLETOWN - It's a fundraiser, yes - but more importantly, NEAT's eighth annual Garden Party is about celebrating the accomplishments of a neighborhood organization, said Izzi Greenberg.
"The importance of this event is to showcase what NEAT has done the past year," said the North End Action Team executive
About 20 Middletown restaurants have donated food, desserts and drinks for Thursday's affair, which begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Erin Street Community Garden at the corner of High Street in Middletown's North End. With vegetables and herbs harvested from the garden, the planning committee will prepare additional menu items.
"We have a lot of tomatoes and basil, so we will probably be serving dishes with those ingredients," Greenberg said.
Bar tables will be set throughout the garden, and Erin Street will be closed while about 300 guests mingle and enjoy live jazz and hors d'oeuvres passed out by neighborhood kids.
The trio The Three Hats - organist Sammy Myers, guitarist Lance James and drummer Bill Carbone - will perform a mix of original jazz tunes as well as "some funkier jazz," said Carbone, a Pearl Street resident.
"We're part of the North End, so it's more than just a gig," Carbone said. "I live in the North End, and I enjoy the good things about it and suffer from the bad things about it."
Carbone, who also runs Wesleyan University's steel drum band, said "NEAT is a voice" for the people of the North End.
"Lydia Brewster, community organizer for NEAT, and Izzi [Greenberg] serve such an important purpose for people who live in the North End," he said. "There have been a lot of major issues on our block. If you report it to NEAT, they advocate for you. They're so huge. They give me hope for the North End."
Funds from Thursday evening's garden party will benefit NEAT's programs, but more importantly, Greenberg said, it will give people a chance to see "what this neighborhood is all about."
"It's a really special place," she said. "It's important to realize what good neighbors and what incredible beauty can be achieved in a neighborhood."
When NEAT first began working at the Erin Street garden, a collaboration with the city of Middletown, the lot was overgrown and filled with junk cars, Greenberg said. Now there are 20 plots, tended by groups and individuals.
"It's really a testament to the committee that runs this garden," Greenberg said. "They're a force to be reckoned with."
Neighborhood kids, proud of what the garden has become, sometimes give tours during the party, she said.
"That's a really powerful feeling for a neighborhood that's often criticized," Greenberg said.
The garden party is open to anyone. A donation of $20 is suggested for individuals and $35 for families. Donations benefit NEAT's programs.
For more information about the garden party, call (860) 346-4845. For more information about NEAT, visit neatmiddletown.org.
The North End Action Team is a neighborhood organization that began in 1997 to develop grassroots leadership in the North End. NEAT is made up of residents, business leaders, property owners and stakeholder groups. NEAT's mission is to provide neighborhood-based participation and leadership, to identify concerns, define strategies and develop resources to improve the quality of life in the North End.
Jennifer Sprague can be reached at jsprague@middletownpress.com or by calling (860) 347-3331, ext. 222.

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