Lillie ’74, Greenberg ’05 Share Middletown Service Project

At left, State Representative Matt Lesser ’10; NEAT Executive Director Izzi Greenberg ’04; Comcast’s Vice President of Community Investment and President of the Comcast Foundation Charisse Lillie ’74; and Wesleyan Vice President for Institutional Partnerships and Chief Diversity Officer Sonia Mañjon, break ground at the new community garden. (Photo by Cynthia Rockwell)

(Left to right): State Representative Matt Lesser ’10; NEAT Executive Director Izzi Greenberg ’05; Comcast’s Vice President of Community Investment and President of the Comcast Foundation Charisse Lillie ’74; and Wesleyan Vice President for Institutional Partnerships and Chief Diversity Officer Sonia Mañjon. All were celebrating a collaborative effort to build a community garden in Middletown's North End. (Photo by Cynthia Rockwell)

Philadelphian Charisse Lillie ’74 was back in Middletown working on a community project this spring. She’d been an active volunteer in the city in her undergraduate days, and now, as the vice president of community investment for Comcast and president of the Comcast Foundation, she returned as a member of the nationwide and 11th annual Comcast Cares Day, held this year on April 21.

“It’s just wonderful to be back in Middletown,” she said, recalling her undergraduate community involvement as a drama workshop leader with Teenagers Organized for Productive Services during the 1970s. This time, she, the Comcast volunteers, and members of NEAT (the city’s North End Action Team) were among those creating a community garden in a vacant lot in memory of in memory of Macdonough Elementary School third-grader Alondra Hernandez, who had suffered an aneurysm last February at school and died at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.

“We are hoping the garden will foster community spirit and will remember this young girl who I understand was the life of the community, and people loved her very much,” Lillie says.

Also at work, and clearly delighted with the collaboration with Comcast, were executive director of NEAT Izzi Greenberg ’05 and Macdonough Elementary School Principal Jon Romeo.

Additionally, Lillie, on behalf on Comcast, presented Greenberg and Romeo each with a $12,500 check, one for the school and one for the organization, although most likely, NEAT and Macdonough, which work closely together, will combine the funding, Greenberg notes.

“North End residents have worked for years to turn this blighted building into a community garden, both for Alondra and her family and for the health of the neighborhood,” Greenberg says. “This effort is part of a larger social justice movement to create safe, healthy neighborhoods in Middletown’s North End. NEAT was so grateful to have Comcast offer their volunteers and generous resources for our efforts. It has been very much appreciated by residents and has complemented and enhanced our work.”