Behind the scenes of the Northville Sensory Garden

09/18/2017 6:00 AM |

The peaceful sound of rippling water fills the warm, afternoon air. Water rushes down on stone into a narrow pond that wraps around the Northville property. Animals nearby like a miniature horse, goats, sheep and chickens go about their day.

It’s a scene designed to inspire tranquility.

The property, discreetly tucked away off Sound Shore Road in Northville, is home to the first residential building for Aid to the Developmentally Disabled, a nonprofit that serves people across eastern Long Island who are developmentally disabled or have a mental illness. The nonprofit now has 32 homes since the nonprofit began more than three decades ago, but only one can boast the beauty of the original site.

A few years ago, part of the property was transformed to what is now known as the Northville Sensory Garden.

“It’s been a well kept secret,” said Charles Evdos, the executive director for ADD.

On Saturday, the sound of rippling water was briefly overmatch by the music blasting from a DJ’s speaker. The nonprofit hosted a meet and greet party to allow many of the residents, workers and neighbors to the Northville property to come together, view the garden, enjoy some catered food from Maple Tree BBQ.

It was also a chance for many to meet Mr. Evdos, who officially began his role as executive director in January following the retirement of Don Rieb, the nonprofit’s founder.

“He built it from scratch,” Mr. Evdos said. “My job is to take it to the next level.”

Charles Evdos became executive director of ADD in January. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

The goal he said is to make the organization “bigger and better,” build up an endowment over the next five years to $5 million and expand with more homes farther west.

A retired CPA, Mr. Evdos, 66, most recently worked as the director of development, marketing and public relations at the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Nassau County. As part of the fundraising effort, Mr. Evdos said they plan to host more events, such as Aces & Races Oct. 4 in Farmingdale. The event combines Go-Kart racing, a casino night and gourmet food and wine tasting.

“Nobody’s ever tried this event before,” he said. “Three events for the price of one.”

He said he expects the event to draw about 300 people and raise nearly $100,000 that will go back into funding ADD.

A small staff maintains the Northville garden, which also includes a greenhouse and everything is organic, said Ken Friberg, who oversees the property.

“This was a veritable jungle and someone had the vision,” Mr. Firberg said. “This was part of the property and they said ‘let’s do something with it.’ ”

The garden is available for similar organizations to ADD to tour and enjoy at no cost, Mr. Evdos said.

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