The Act Now Foundation, a Hudson County-based non-profit organization that helps families battle with Alzheimer’s disease, honored the brother-sister duo who converted Shuetzen Park into The Boulevard at their second annual gala on Friday night.
“Here we are, a year later, our dream has come true: our new dementia center is literally attached to the kitchen back there. It’s a beautiful 2,500 square foot space that we are so privileged and honored to have that space – we are so grateful, we are looking forward to a future,” said Act Now Co-Founder and CEO Kristine Allen.
“I just want to tell you guys something now and put it on the record: we’re going to change the way people live with dementia. We’re going to change the way that people take care of those that have dementia. It starts here, it starts now, it starts today.”
Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, who was the Act Now Foundation’s first ever honoree last year, introduced Murphy and Anne-Marie Vandervelde before they received their awards.
“If you read your program here, and read about Anne-Marie and Murphy, you read the short biography of two very incredible people. People who are ambitious, accomplished and are anxious to give back to the communities that they serve,” the county exec said.
The Vanderveldes purchased Shuetzen Park in 2016 and the property now includes The Boulevard, an events center – essentially a new and improved Schuetzen Park, Hudson Hills, a senior living facility and the main office for the Act Now Foundation (they also have a satellite office in Jersey City).
During his speech at the podium, Murphy Vandervelde explained that while he briefly considering demolishing the building and starting from scratch, state Senator (D-32)/North Bergen Mayor Nick convinced him otherwise.
“[We thought] it was just beyond disrepair and there was no way of saving it. About a week later, I get a call and I go back to meet the mayor a second time and he said ‘you know, I’ve been thinking about our conversation: I think you should think twice about tearing down Shuetzen Park – it’s such an important part of our community,” he recalled.
“So I went back to Anne-Marie … 30 seconds into the conversation I said ‘Anne-Marie: we’re gonna renovate Schuetzen Park.”
Sacco was also part of the program and commended the Vanderveldes on a job well done on improving the iconic building.
Additionally, Anne-Marie Vandervelde explained some of their personal experiences with Alzheimer’s disease and why they wanted to help the Act Now Foundation’s cause.
“Our father came, he was a first generation from Holland and he was an incredible athlete, he was a generous man of spirit and time, and he was one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever had the opportunity to meet – he was a psychiatrist and a neurosurgeon,” she began.
“And he published a book within six months of him being diagnosed with dementia. And about two years ago he lost the fight with dementia and I’ve heard it said that if we remember those who have loved us, and we’ve lost, that they live on forever.”
Anne-Marie Vandervelde concluded by exclaiming that the entire new complex, located near the intersection of 32nd Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard, is dedicated to her father.
Furthermore, Allen, along with Act Now Executive Director Cary Lopez, commemorated the work of all their caregivers with proclamations from the Board of Chosen Freeholders, and also took the time to acknowledge the patients who passed away in the past year.