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A Teaneck Love Affair
By Marie Burr
I've had a love affair with Teaneck since we moved here from Hasbrouck Heights almost 40 years ago. There is an openness, a vitality, a friendliness and an optimism that is all-pervasive. One has the feeling that anything is possible here. Every worthy idea seems to attract its own enthusiastic following and willing hands and hearts to see it through.
We have been happy that our four children - three sons and a daughter - were reared in this atmosphere. They have become strong and independent, contributing citizens in their own towns. I give Teaneck and Teaneck schools the credit for their sense of community, and their belief that they share responsibility for the well being of their neighbors in the places they choose to live.
Teaneck has so many organizations and groups dedicated to improving the quality of life. In my younger days. I wanted to be active in many of them, to share the opportunity they offered for service. An actively involved husband, and the demands of a growing family made this impossible. Cubs and Brownies, music lessons, school activities, lots of meetings in our home over the years, family get-togethers, consumed much of my energy.
However, my love for, and my involvement with many phases of work in the Teaneck United Methodist Church and, through it, the Teaneck-Bogota Council of Church Women United, provided avenues of service that have been most fulfilling. (I have served as president of both United Methodist Women and the Teaneck-Bogota Council.)
Church Women United - I have been active since its formation in 1948 -- consists of nine member churches, seven in Teaneck and two in Bogota. St. Anastasia's and St. Joseph's, Roman Catholic churches, joined the council a few years ago and have brought new strength and new dimensions.
One of the council's activities many of us recall with pleasure is "International Student Day." It should be reactivated.
This was a day when we entertained a hundred or more foreign students from the New York area. The students would be assigned to a host family for the day (always a Sunday), in many cases beginning with church attendance. This would be followed by an American Sunday dinner, a tour of the towns, and a supper reception at the Woman's Club or a program at Fairleigh Dickinson University in the late afternoon. This was an exciting event for the host families and many of the friendships formed in those days are still enjoyed. One lovely young lady from Goa (that tiny country next to India), who was studying dentistry at the Guggenheim Clinic in New York and is now practicing in London, has become our second daughter.
For years the council, in cooperation with Recreation Director Dick Rodda, gave Sunday afternoon parties for senior citizens at various churches and synagogues. In June, there was always a party at Ben Franklin Junior High School, with an orchestra and dancing and singing.
Out of these Sunday tea parties came the inspiration for the Senior Services Center of Teaneck, which was begun early in 1974 and officially opened in December of that year. I was one of the five incorporators of the center with Jean Rindlaub, our guiding light: Isobel Letts, Rita Hall and Father Joel of St. Anastasia's. This project started with no money, no "home," and no equipment of any kind. The Township Council agreed to let us use space in the Town House on Forest Avenue, and once again Dick Rodda cooperated in every way, letting us use space he sorely needed for recreation activities.
The Teaneck Community Chest came to our aid with a generous grant, and we had the great good fortune to obtain the services of Marna Gold as our first director. She was a dynamo, bursting with enthusiasm and extremely capable. The center, successful almost from the start, has been a fine addition to Teaneck life. I recall how thrilled we were when the Teaneck Rotary Club donated a brand-new van to provide transportation for the seniors, a sample of the kind of cooperation that exists here.
Also, in 1974. the Teaneck-Bogota Council initiated the idea of organizing a FISH program in Teaneck.
Isobel Letts. of St. Paul's Lutheran Church. a dedicated churchwoman and skillful organizer, was then president of the council, and the spark that inspired us. Once again I was one of the five incorporators, along with Betty Wiker. Ronald Glazer. Gould Harris and Mozelle Best. This is a program that provides free help to families or individuals, without regard to race, color, creed, or economic status: and with strict confidentiality and respect for each individual. It is, in essence; a neighbor-helping-neighbor program.
Volunteers drive residents to doctors, dentists and hospitals, do shopping for the elderly, give emergency help where needed, read to the blind, etc. We decided to call our organization STARFISH of Teaneck, Inc., combining "the Christian symbol of the fish with the Star of David, for this is a truly ecumenical activity.
I have served as a trustee since 1974, and both my husband and I have served as Officers of the Day and volunteer drivers from the outset. Starfish is the very last activity I will relinquish, for it has been dear to my heart and a source of inspiration and blessing to volunteer and recipient alike.
In 1968, the Teaneck-Bogota, Council of C. W. U. established the Martin Luther King Scholarship Fund, which became part of the Teaneck Community Scholarship Fund. This fund, now in its 26th year, has helped many hundreds of high school seniors in their first year of advanced education. This activity has brought all segments of the community together: residents, business organizations, and civic and religious groups. Teaneck can be very proud of its Community Scholarship Fund.
There are so many fine groups of volunteers in Teaneck. One thing I have discovered over the years: when it comes to volunteering, there are no differences among Protestant, Catholic, or Jew, nor among black or white, liberal or conservative, young or old. Service is the common denominator.
Teaneck happily has more than its share of people who enjoy helping others. That is what makes Teaneck so special. I'm glad that fate moved in its mysterious way to bring me and my family to this beautiful town.
(This article was originally written for the special Discover Teaneck '83 section of The Teaneck News. We hope you enjoy it in that spirit.- Ed.)
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