By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
To give back to his Harlem community, Corey J. Garrett Sr. a Local 1505 City Parks Worker and crew chief, mentors neighborhood kids, registers voters and is a citizen soldier with the New York State Guard, where he has served as an army command sergeant major, the highest enlisted rank, for two decades.
In June, New York State Assembly member Keith Wright and members of the City Council chose Garrett, a New York County Democratic Committee member, for the 2016 Harlem Men of Distinction award.
“I was surprised and speechless,” said the former U.S. Marine. “I reread the letter five times.”
Helping others is a way of life for Garrett, who enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps at 18, then joined the U.S. Army. Local politicians recognized Garrett’s volunteerism and outstanding spirit—semper fi—the Marine motto, always faithful.
As a mentor with the Harlem Youth Marine Inc., a cadet program, Garrett works with children who have behavioral issues. “Some of these kids are raised by grandparents, some are bullied,” he said. “I try to teach the kids to see life different. Our goal is to get them off the corners and reach them before the gangs do.”
“I come from the same circumstances these kids are in,” Garrett said. “I tell them, ‘If I can do it, you can too!’”
At age 9, his mom enrolled him in the Youth Marines, where Garrett said, “I gained the confidence to become a U. S. Marine, just like in the commercials.
“Boot camp pushed me beyond what I thought I could achieve,” he said. “I bring that same dedication to my job at the Parks Department.”
“I always want District 12 parks—where I work—to be as I’d want it for my kid,” said Garrett, who has a 10-year-old daughter.
City Parks Workers keep parks secure, safe and clean, making sure playground equipment is safe, removing garbage, and more.
“Keeping parks clean is big part of keeping them safe,” Garrett said. “We trim grass, cut weeds, and paint benches, garbage cans and handball court walls. I tell my coworkers, ‘We are laborers. Let’s give it that new park look!’”
He strives to make a difference at work, with youth, in his local union and by educating voters in his City College neighborhood. He said, “When you enjoy what you do, it’s never overwhelming.”
“Whenever park visitors thank us,” Garrett said, “I know we’ve made a positive impression for anyone in a Parks Department uniform.”