SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — A cold and windy Earth Day didn’t stop South Orange residents from stopping by the library on April 22 for Makers Mayhem, where they could play games, do crafts and plant flowers in stations around the building. A patch of grass was dug up and reserved for a garden in front of the library, facing Scotland Road, to honor the South Orange residents who have died from COVID-19 in the last year. Forget-me-not flowers were planted in their honor.
“We wanted to bring people together and honor the people who were affected by the pain and grief,” interim library Director Lindita Cani said in an interview with the News-Record at the event. “We’re trying to keep it a focal point in the community and include everyone.”
The library had to move most of its operations to the internet when the pandemic closed the building’s doors last year, but patrons checked out materials more than they had before and used its resources to connect during a time when they couldn’t socialize in person. SOPL opened its doors again in July at 25-percent capacity, and Cani said patrons have been glad to come back.
“We’re here,” she said, mentioning upcoming Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Pride Month and Juneteenth events on the calendar. “We still can’t do much indoors, so we bring it outside.”
South Orange resident Kathleen Reilly donated the flowers that were planted in front of the library; Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, Trustees Karen Hartshorn Hilton and Summer Jones, and Village President Sheena Collum all planted flowers.
“Each of us has been impacted by the pandemic,” Collum said at the event. “But it’s brought out the best in our community, whether it’s been people grocery shopping for each other or giving rides to get vaccinated. It’s a beautiful garden tribute to those we lost, but also to a brighter future for each and every one of us.”
Photos by Amanda Valentovic