Paterson NJ Great Falls Youth Center Receives $1 Million Donation


PATERSON — Marilyn Clark of Woodcliff Lake decided she wanted to do something to help the residents of Paterson after reading a story in The Record in 2017 about Habitat for Humanity’s housing program in the town.

For example, Clark made donations to Habitat that enabled four low-income families to purchase new homes in Paterson. But she didn’t stop there. Next, Clark wanted to make a contribution to Paterson’s youth programs.

That charitable desire culminated with the 87-year-old’s recent $1 million donation to the Great Falls Youth Center expansion.

“There’s such a need for this in Paterson,” Clark said Thursday, ahead of a groundbreaking ceremony for the expansion. “Too often, if they don’t have the right support system, they can get into trouble. Incarceration rates are terrible.

Clark’s most recent bounty almost never happened. She left a voicemail for the nonprofit group that runs the youth center, the Paterson-based New Jersey Community Development Corporation. But this message got lost in the crowd.

Determined to help, Clark turned to her pastor, Reverend Arturo Lewis of Emmanuel Church in Ridgewood. Lewis grew up in Paterson and he contacted Vaughn McKoy, the city’s former business administrator, who put him in touch with NJCDC executive director Bob Guarasci.

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As a result, Clark toured Paterson with Guarasci, which resulted in her being donated to the youth center.

“We would always be looking for additional funds,” Guarasci said when asked where the project would be without Clark’s help.

The NJCDC opened the youth center on Front Street near the Great Falls about five years ago, remodeling a former veterans hall. Originally about 100 teenagers used the center, but soon the demand for the youth center’s programs outstripped its building.

Marilyn Clark speaks at the September 22, 2022 groundbreaking for the Great Falls Youth Center expansion in Paterson.  Clark donated $1 million for the project.

“The kids kept coming, and that’s a good thing,” Guarasci said.

The total price for the project is $3 million, according to the NJCDC. It will include the expansion of the existing building with a new multi-purpose hall and the construction of a new building called “College Central” to help students enter and succeed in college, as well as a podcast studio.

The nonprofit group expects the new facilities to open next spring.

The rest of the money for the project comes from a $1.5 million grant from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs and a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant, federal funding channeled through the city of Paterson.

Guarasci said Clark’s donation is the biggest gift his agency has ever received from a single person.

Unlike some older people, Clark didn’t hesitate to say she was 87 when a reporter asked her age.

“I’m so proud of it,” she said. “How lucky I am to be 87 and to be healthy and active in my community and church.”

On Thursday, the NJCDC folks in Paterson also felt pretty lucky that Clark remains active in the community.

Joe Malinconico is editor of Paterson Press. Email: [email protected]


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