Garden Falls

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A Promise Made

The Story Behind Garden Falls

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After six years and 1 million dollars, on January 27, 2014 the Board of Adjustment of Monroe Township, Middlesex County, New Jersey, approved the site plan allowing Greeks Playland, Inc. and the Stone Museum to go on forever.

A Promise Made to Mom

In the middle of the Great Depression, a baby was abandoned in a coal bin. The child was discovered and brought up in a state-sponsored foster home by a remarkable woman named Elizabeth Van Fleet. She managed to raise 60 children, three of whom were mentally challenged; with skill and love in the course of her life. The boy left in the coal bin was nicknamed "The Greek" by the kids in the home who learned of his ancestry, and he kept this name as a reminder of the place where he was raised. "Greek" also made a promise to the lady who raised him that he would devote half the money he made in life to charity, and specifically, to causes involved with the physically and mentally challenged. For better or worse, I am the child found in the coal bin.

In 1970 I purchased an existing farm as a site to house both my landscaping operation and Greek's Playland. By 1972, Greek's Playland was ready to hold free parties for the handicapped and disadvantaged. State organizations were invited to bring disabled children and adults for a free day of fun. All of our day trips included food, refreshments and amusements. We have a half mile undercover wheelchair accessible walkway that takes you through scenic views of nature and waterfalls. Since 1972 over 100,000 disabled children and adults have attended day trips at Greek's Playland. Their biggest thrill was a ride on the Fire Truck that Greek bought from the Middlesex Fire Department.

The Playland is dedicated to the life of Elizabeth Van Fleet, who spent most of her life helping under privileged children. She taught us to be unselfish, charitable, and respectful towards religious and racial diversity. Her life served as the inspiration for the creation of Greek's Playland & The Stone Museum. Greek's Playland Inc., a non-profit organization with no paid employees, permit # 226289-923-000 where children and adults from state organizations can come and enjoy themselves in the fresh outdoors. "Mom" would have liked the idea and we are grateful for her memory.

Greek's Playland is located at the Stone Museum, which was curated by Gerald Kliner, who has given over 800 free tours. It includes rocks and fossils, fluorescent minerals, dinosaur eggs, Native American artifacts and a large rock collection. The museum displays over 1800 specimens from around the world, which visitors can touch. In 1985 Monmouth University donated its collection of 550 minerals. The U.S. Army donated an M60 tank and a Cobra Helicopter. For the kids, we've built "Monroe the Dino," a 20 foot tall dinosaur replica in a stone-like enclosure that growls with real ferocity. We also have a Helistop on site H 353.

Now I have advanced in age and slowed down my landscaping business. I knew I needed to provide a stable source of funding to guarantee the continued existence of Greek's Playland and The Stone Museum. With this purpose in mind, I converted a section of the Playland into Garden Falls, a reception facility to fund the Playland and the Museum. Joe and Trinia Cayre from Brooklyn, New York donated one hundred thousand dollars to buy the building material so I could build an enclosure. Marcello Lucas from Morganville donated all the piping, dirt and stone that the Playland needed. Jim Gary, the famous Dinosaur man donated 3 dinosaurs. The latest addition to the Stone Museum is Pat Carmella's Shoe Shop. Corporate organizations can donate materials to Greeks Playland, Inc.

We have thousands of visitors that come each year to the Stone Museum, including Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts philanthropic organization, etc. On October 16, 2013, we entertained over 400 people for our 12th annual Octoberfest, which was hosted by Barbara Smith. Everyone donated their services, including the entertainers. Michael Pelligra, Owner of Twin Oaks Caterer donated the food. The Stone Museum is open from April 15th thru October 16th, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday, 10:00 A.M. until 4:00 P.M. Owen Ravino gives free tours at the Stone Museum, call Barbara at 732-521-2232 to arrange for a tour. The entire site is wheelchair accessible and can be enjoyed rain or shine. Admission is free. Absolutely no fees or monetary donations will be accepted from the visitors. Feel free to bring a camera!
Thank you,
The Greek

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