Project Promise, Community Partners, Howard Students Install JFL Memorial Garden

Students from Project Promise’s Caterpillar Project and Howard University, and community volunteers gather in JFL memorial garden they built.

On Monday, Project Promise’s Caterpillar Project (TCP) students and staff, along with volunteers from the community and Howard University students, completed a long-anticipated memorial garden for the Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center (JFL).  The volunteer group, led by Project Promise founder and president Resa O’Reilly, met at the hospital and put together JFL’s Perinatal Loss Center of Hope’s Infant and Children’s memorial garden as part of the project’s monthly community service.

Every month, TCP students complete a community service project in line with a monthly theme.  March’s theme is mental health, and O’Reilly contacted JFL to see what area would best benefit from their assistance. She had heard about the garden that had been established in 2015 but wasn’t developed, and came up with the concept and tranquil garden design revealed Monday, which included a pergola and bench.

O’Reilly recruited local carpenter Michael Augustin to build the pergola and bench for the garden, and volunteers from Caravelle Casino, students from Howard University and the Project Promise TCP program.  The volunteer group stained the pergola and bench, installed stepping stones and a water fountain, and planted flowers to complete the tranquil space that was the vision of Neonatal Intensive Care Unit nurse manager Faye John-Baptiste.  

“The garden is absolutely gorgeous, and I am almost at a loss for words with the outpouring of love we have experienced today,” said John-Baptiste.  “I can’t thank Ms. Resa O’Reilly, Project Promise and the other groups enough who came together to make this project possible.”

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Howard University students building memorial garden at JFL.

Project Promise is dedicating the memorial garden in honor of 18-year-old Crucian native Asa O’Neal, who was a freshman at Howard University when he died suddenly last November.  Some of O’Neal’s classmates who are visiting the island on spring break this week also made up the volunteer pool.  They came to St. Croix at the suggestion of Asa’s mother, Denise O’Neal, who offered them the opportunity to see St. Croix and give to the community.

“We thought it was a great idea because as his friends, we can give back to this community and at the same time honor Asa’s memory,” said Howard University student and fellow Crucian Jordan Lake.

In addition to the student volunteers from Howard University, St. Croix Trading Company donated the lumber for the project; Gallows Bay Hardware donated the varnish and paint supplies; O’Reilly Plumbing and Construction transported supplies; and Caravelle Casino donated $500 towards the water fountain, flowers and pavers as well as a group of employee volunteers.

For more information about The Caterpillar Project or other Project Promise programs, contact Resa O’Reilly at 244-3242. Project Promise is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of at-risk youth on St. Croix by providing empowerment initiatives, cultural programs and family services.  To learn more about it, visit the Web site at www.projectpromisevi.com.

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