608 Spotswood-Englishtown Rd.
Monroe Township, New Jersey 08831
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 of 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. Since 1972 over 100,000 disabled children and adults have attended day trips to Greek’s Playland. Their biggest thrill was a ride on the Fire Truck that Greek bought from the Middlesex County 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 an 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.
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 free portion of Greek’s Playland is only open to New Jersey state organizations.
On October 16, 2013, we entertained over 400 special needs children and adults 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 free parties will be on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, April 15 thru October 16, 10:00 AM until 2:00 PM. The Playland can be rented on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for weddings, proms, Sweet 16s, parties, etc. Call Barbara at 732-521-2232. The site is wheelchair accessible and can be enjoyed rain or shine.