Eta Pi Chapter looking forward to cleanup of Ambrose Ward Mansion

EAST ORANGE, N.J. — Keith Pressey and the brothers of the Eta Pi Chapter of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity are joining forces with East Orange Mayor Lester Taylor, Blackstone 360 Development, the Shauger Group and other community stakeholders to have a cleanup at the Ambrose Ward Mansion on South Harrison Street on Saturday, April 23, from 9 a.m. to noon.

“This is actually an event that was supposed to take place on Saturday, April 9, but had to be postponed, due to the threat of inclement weather,” said Eta Pi Chairman Keith Pressey, who also works in the Orange Recreation Department, on Tuesday, April 19. “The East Orange Community Development Block Grant program recognizes National CDBG Week from April 4 to 9, and our property, the Ambrose Ward Mansion, was accepted for the community initiative that week. We were going to do a major cleanup from 9 a.m. to noon at the Ambrose Ward Mansion, 132 S. Harrison St., in honor of National CDBG Week, and we’re still going to do it, even though it’s two weeks later.”

According to Pressey, the decision to get involved with the CDBG Grant award process, in an attempt to secure a community hub such as the Ambrose Ward Mansion, will someday come down to “me, as chairman, asking all the Eta Pi chapter members to come through and do a community cleanup, including gardening, recycling old items and just a sprucing up, as we prepare for various community initiatives.”

“We’re happy that we’re considered to be part of that CDBG family and we’re hoping it’s a sign that they’re starting to look at what we do and recognizing that it’s worth funding,” said Pressey. “We have several projects that we’re looking for assistance from CDBG and we hope they see them as favorable and give us funds. There is a process. Just being considered as a project for CDBG is encouraging. Nothing’s been promised, but it is encouraging.”

It’s also encouraging, Pressey said, to get a little help from friends when trying to do something worthwhile that adds value to the community.

“We’ve called in a couple of community friends to help us out, including Blackstone 360 Development that is building market rate housing right next door to the Ambrose Ward Mansion,” said Pressey. “They are rehabbing an old property that has been gutted and empty for many years. They’re bringing it back on line and actually building additional housing in back of it, as well as increasing the height of the building, from eight stories to 13 stories; they’re increasing the height of the building to add more apartments.”

Pressey said anyone who volunteers for the cleanup on Saturday, April 23, might get the chance to see the mayor in jeans, boots and gloves.

“You can just come on out and bring their boots and gloves,” said Pressey. “The Shauger Group will be there with rakes and shovels to assist us. It’s going to be a real community effort. And we’ve invited Mayor Lester Taylor. We want to see if he’s going to come out there with his jeans and gloves.”

Pressey said it’s encouraging to be working with Milton Hobbs, the manager of East Orange’s CDBG program, as well as Taylor and the rest of the city of East Orange on a project that will positively impact the community.

“We are more than the stereotypes about Greek fraternities,” said Pressey. “We’re professional men who care about our families and our communities. Our chapter is referred to as the ‘Community Qs.’ We’re known around the community for trying to make a difference. Hopefully, we’ll be adopting that block — the whole South Harrison Street — and this Ambrose Ward Mansion will serve as a community hub for whatever the community needs. We have a lot going on.”

For information about how to participate in the cleanup, call 888-838-2024.