The Greek’s ride from Rags to Riches, to Rags
In the middle of The Great Depression a baby was abandoned in a coal bin. The child was discovered and brought up in a New Jersey state sponsored foster home by a wonderful woman named Elizabeth Van Fleet. She raised 59 other children, 3 of them were mentally challenged. The boy left in the coal bin was nicknamed “The Greek” by the kids in the home who learned of his ancestry.
Greek made a promise to the lady who raised him that if he ever made money, he would donate half of it to charity and specifically to causes involved with the physically and mentally challenged. I am the child found in the coal bin, and I kept my promise and I used all of my money for them
The Playland is dedicated to the life of Elizabeth Van Fleet who spent most of her life helping underprivileged children. She taught us to be unselfish, charitable and respectful towards religious and racial diversities. Her life served as the inspiration for the creation of Greek’s Playland, Inc., a non-profit organization permit #226389-923-000.
It is run by 12 unpaid Board of Directors. Cheryl Makin is the President and I am the Vice-President. The employees for Greeks Playland, The Stone Museum and Garden Falls will be paid at most 3x New Jersey minimum wage based on 40 hours a week. The managers can receive up to 4 times.
Gerald Kliner 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, it’s the only museum where visitors can touch specimens.
In 1985, Monmouth University donated its collection of 500 minerals. The US Army donated a M60 Tank and a Cobra Helicopter. We also have our own helistop on site (H353) where we have given rides to guests.
I converted a section of the Playland into Garden Falls, a reception facility to fund the Playland and the free Stone Museum. Joe and Trina Carye from Brooklyn, N.Y. donated $150,000. This was the only monetary donation that I ever accepted. Marcelo Lucas from Morganville, N.J. donated all the blacktop, stone, and piping for the facility.
Jim Gary, the famous dinosaur man donated three dinosaurs that he made. I welcome individuals, corporate organizations and those philanthropic to donate to Greek’s Playland, Inc. This was the first year that I could not have our annual Fall-fest because of a lack of funds, etc. Over the last 15 years we entertained over 5000 special needs children; including food, entertainment and gifts, etc.
Barbara and Glen Smith handled everything and created lifetime memories, and gave them the opportunity to be in the community with their peers, and enjoy themselves in a way like never before. They had games, prizes, pumpkins, face painting, balloon sculpturing, the Dixie land band entertainment, clowns, musicians, tattoo artists and the best BBQ lunch in NJ…what a day!
Last week, I received two small envelopes with no returned address that said “Thanks;” they container two $20 bills in each. It brought a tear to my eye and it made me feel great that someone appreciates what I have been doing.
I am at Greek’s Playland seven days a week from 11am-5pm. When the weather is bad, I don’t come in. You can call me at 732-521-2232. When you call, just ask for the Greek.
For more information go to www.thestonemuseum.com