Westfield Girl Scout Creating ‘Sensory Garden’ Inspired by Cousin

WESTFIELD, NJ — Westfield High School junior Clara Christian is going for her Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest achievement awarded by Scouts, to make the world a better place. Her project is “Veronica’s Garden,” a sensory garden for people with special needs located off Mountain Avenue within Mindowaskin Park.

The garden is inspired by Clara’s cousin, Veronica, who is 14 and has Down Syndrome.

On March 10, the Westfield Town Council approved the project, with support and guidance from Westfield Town Administrator Jim Gildea. It will take up approximately 2,500 square feet in total.

Clara needs about $2,000 more in donations by some time in October to finish the garden, said her mother this week. (If you’d like to learn more about Clara’s project or donate, see her website HERE.)

Help from the city and businesses

The public and private project has taken over a year and a half to plan.

The town repaved all the paths in Mindowaskin Park recently to provide easier access throughout the park.

Westfield town leaders have been instrumental and encouraging throughout the journey, her mother said.

And local business have donated service. Scape-Abilities owner Steve Costalos created the garden plan as a donation. Dreyer Farms in Cranford has been instrumental in selecting the plants and guiding Clara as she prepares for the build.

Town Engineer Kris McAloon was able to install a new water pit and electricity to prepare for the garden’s irrigation system that was installed by A. Priscoe Irrigation at cost.

To learn more, see the website here.

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James McColley, former summer camp employee at Westfield YMCA, accused of photographing 5 female counselors and volunteers changing in bathroom

A former employee at a Western Massachusetts summer camp was charged last week with secretly recording multiple female staffers while they were changing in a bathroom, according to police.

James McColley, who worked at Camp Shepard at the YMCA of Greater Westfield, has been accused of recording five counselors and volunteers while they were undressing in late July and early August, authorities said.

The victims’ ages ranged from 14 to 22 years old, according to court records from Westfield District Court.

He was arraigned Friday afternoon from jail at the Ludlow House of Correction on 15 charges, including both misdemeanor and felony sexual surveillance, unlawful secret recording, posing a child for sexual photographs and possessing child pornography, officials said.

The 20-year-old Longmeadow man was expected to be released on $10,000 personal surety and is scheduled to return to court for a pretrial hearing in October, Westfield Police Capt. Michael McCabe told MassLive.

Officers investigated a report on Aug. 3 that McColley used his phone to record a camp counselor while she was changing inside a women’s bathroom out of her bathing suit into dry clothes, according to court records.

While changing her clothes, the counselor looked toward the ceiling and saw a cell phone with the camera pointed at her, police said.

McColley had allegedly reached over the wall from the men’s bathroom into the women’s bathroom with the phone in his hand, according to authorities.

On the same day, McColley agreed to speak with Westfield police officers but later called to say he would not be coming, court records said.

Police received a warrant to seize McColley’s iPhone, but the suspect refused to come to the door or to talk with authorities. His mother gave investigators the phone, which was processed a day later by Massachusetts State Police, according to officials.

Through processing the phone and interviewing witnesses and victims, authorities learned McColley had allegedly taken several photographs and videos of five different girls or women in states of undress. Three were older than 18, and two were not, court records said.

The images were taken without the female staffers’ consent in the same bathroom where they expected privacy, police noted.

It was later discovered that McColley searched how to make photo albums password-protected on the iPhone after he was allegedly caught photographing the counselor on Aug. 3, according to authorities.

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