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Volunteering to help preserve Nutley

Photo by Karen Zautyk Juliana Leite and Nutley Commissioner Steven Rogers.

Photo by Karen Zautyk
Juliana Leite and Nutley Commissioner Steven Rogers.

By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent

NUTLEY –

For one Nutley High School senior, a love of her hometown–and a wish to invest in both its history and its future–has led to a prestigious assignment.

On March 19, 18-year-old Juliana Leite was one of seven people appointed by Board of Commissioners to the township’s newly created Historic Preservation Committee. The other members are: Gary Marino, Sal Corvino, Jack Barry and Dot Greengrove, and alternates James Levendusky and John Demmer.

Leite told us that not long ago, “I went to Commissioner [Steven] Rogers because I wanted to get more involved in my town.”

“We talked about the veterans’ programs (she’ll be helping with those, too) and then he told me about the Historic Preservation Committee.

“I am honored to have been appointed, especially as the first high school student,” she said. She is also “excited to learn more about the organization” and to participate in Nutley preservation.

The HPC is an outgrowth of the Nutley Community Preservation Partnership, a nonprofit group formed eight years ago and now under the direction of Suzanne Beadle.

Its mission is to try to preserve certain properties with links to Nutley history–as well as preserving its natural history. As in gardens. And trees. According to the Nutley website (nutleynj.org), “The latest surveys list the township as maintaining over 10,000 trees . . . .”

That number has surely decreased — but hopefully not sharply — due to recent storms, including Hurricane Sandy and the No-Name Storm that pummeled the area in late 2011. Caretakers are definitely needed.

The Partnership defines its overall goal as “preserving the unique character of our town.”

“Our mission is to enhance communication and foster a partnership between our community and government in order to encourage appropriate development.”

As for the HPC, it will be charged with identifying, designating and regulating historic landmarks within the town.

Nutley’s history is deep and rich. Although incorporated as a township only in 1902, the community can trace its roots back 300 years.

As the website also notes, the spirit of volunteerism has long been nurtured: “Whether . . . families have lived in Nutley for generations or for a few years, the civic involvement here in Nutley is infectious.”

Juliana Leite has surely caught the volunteerism bug. Or maybe it’s in a Nutleyite’s genes.

Born and raised in Nutley, she is the daughter of Elaina Zoganas and Volney Leite. Her stepdad is Tim Zoganas. She has a 20-year-old sister, Francesca.

At Nutley HS, Leite has played soccer for three years and basketball for four–but she still finds time to be active in the St. Thomas the Apostle Youth Group. She plans on majoring in elementary and special education in college and is thinking of attending St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

As for a commitment to Nutley, she said, “I’m strongly influenced by my faith, family and country and want to give back to the community where I was raised.”

“I really do love my town,” she told The Observer, “and I am proud to be from Nutley. It’s a great community to be part of and a great town to live in.”

Citing her new HPC assignment, Leite noted, “I feel very honored to actually get to be a part of the town. Nutley has been great to me, and I want to give back.”

How refreshing it that?

Commenting on Leite’s appointment, Commissioner Rogers said, “I thought it would be a great asset to have her on the committee. It is important to invest in our young people and have them participate in government.”

And he summed it up perfectly: “It is important for young persons to be involved in the town. They’ll be here when we’re gone.”

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