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Bloomingdale Volunteer Says She Does it For the Kids
Meg Gray is a Bloomingdale Recreation commissioner, Girl Scout leader and PTA board member.
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Bloomingdale volunteer, Meg Gray, speaks about her experiences with the community.
About this column: A closer look at the lives of people who live in Kinnelon, Butler and Bloomingdale.
Bloomingdale Recreation Commission
- Name: Meg Gray is 39 and an active volunteer in Bloomingdale. “Everything I do involves the kids,” Gray said.
- Family: Gray and her husband, Christopher, moved to Bloomingdale 14 years ago. “As married people, this is the only town we have lived in,” said Gray. The couple came to the borough because Gray’s sister, who has been in Bloomingdale 25 years, “lives right down the street,” she said.
- Children: Gray and her husband have two daughters, Alexandra, 10, and Sarah, 6.
- Current Activities: In addition to serving as a Girl Scout leader for her daughter’s Junior Girl Scout troop, Gray was the past president of, and serves as the current corresponding secretary for, the Bloomingdale Parent-Teacher Association (PTA). Her primary role is as a fundraiser, cultural arts program director for the school and coordinator of Family Fun Day. She has also been a Bloomingdale Recreation commissioner for about 10 years. “The mayor knocked on my door,” she said of her appointment to the commission. “It was kinda bizarre. The mayor just knocked on my door and asked me if I wanted to do it. I didn’t know him from a hole in the wall.” At the time, Gray didn’t have children, but she had gotten involved in a playground committee. “My sister had children, and there were no playgrounds in town,” explained Gray. She served on the committee and helped get a playground built near Bogue Pond. In doing so, she also built a reputation as someone who does what she says she is going to do, she said. “I think that is why the mayor asked me,” she said.
- Other Activities: Since becoming a part of the Recreation Commission, Gray has been instrumental in building the community’s programs and activities. With a budget of around $14,000, Gray and six other commissioners and two alternates work to support programs that benefit roughly 2,000 children from Bloomingdale and the surrounding area. “It used to require a lot of hours,” she said of the commission, noting that getting the 61 Main Street recreational site up and running was a huge task. Originally, there was not a clear plan for the space, nor was there a director, she said. “Everything was run by volunteers.” Today, however, Gail Galbraith serves as director. “Gail really does a tremendous amount of work,” Gray said. Some of the big improvements Galbraith has created include the Kids Who Care program and a summer day camp at Camp Vacamas. Kids Who Care, now in its third year, is comprised of 40 eighth graders who volunteer to assist at recreation events. Camp Vacamas is Bloomingdale’s new summer day camp option, which provides true camping experiences, like hiking and swimming.
- Time Spent Volunteering: Gray notes that volunteering in a small town is “both good, because you are really needed, and bad, because there is such a small pool of volunteers to meet all the needs of the community. You really do see the same 20 people over and over.” But Gray likes to keep busy and she enjoys seeing the joy kids get out of the programs she is involved in. Of all of her volunteer commitments, the one that requires the most time is Girl Scouts, she said. “It’s a lot of work,” she said. “The girls, you know, they get a lot out of it.”
- Career: In addition to volunteering, Gray works 30 hours each week as a physical therapist in Morristown for the Atlantic Health System. "I like that I have to leave my job there. It's required. I physically can't bring it home with me."
- Education: Gray, a graduate of Clifton High School, attended the University of Rhode Island, where she received a bachelor’s degree. Following that, she earned her master’s degree from Temple University.
- Favorite Thing About Bloomingdale “That it is a small, family-oriented, working class community,” Gray said. “It’s small enough that everyone knows each other… You get to know faces. You get to know names, and you get to know families.”
- Something She Would Change: “I would love for there to be a benefactor somewhere that would hand us, like, $20 million. I want to win the lottery so someday I can do that,” said Gray, because there is so much more she would like to be able to do for the community. “There’s always room for improvement.” Gray would like to see the downtown business area improved and more parking added, but she is not certain how the borough should go about tackling those issues. “I work small,” she said. Gray is looking toward her Girl Scouts to accomplish some reform. This fall, the troop begins working on their Bronze Awards, and they have chosen a program called Agent of Change as their prototype. “It’s where you walk around your community with a pencil and paper and when you see stuff you don’t like, you try to come up with an action plan for improving it. So, I am looking toward them to see what they are going to change.”
- Hobbies: “Probably volunteering,” said Gray. “I learned the volunteering thing from my father,” she added. “And work. My father used to say, ‘If you don’t work, you don’t eat.’” Gray admits, when she is not busy working, she feels lost. “I’ve had a job, or two, or three since the minute I could apply for working papers.”
- Advice: “If you see someone else who is committed to giving a little bit of time, it motivates the next person to give a little bit more, and the next person, and that’s how we get things done,” explained Gray. She urges everyone in the community to spend an hour or two each week volunteering.
- Philosophy: “Get it done. Keep working until the job is done, and take pride in what you do accomplish.”