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Most visitors to Buffalo's waterfront probably don't realize that the landscaping in the Naval and Military Park is maintained by a dedicated group of volunteers, and that's why they are this week's good neighbors.

Just a few years ago, the park was full of weeds and overgrown brush. That caught the eye of Buffalo resident Paul Marzello, who would often run through the park.

"You know this park is badly neglected," he said to himself. "This is a memorial. We have a duty and obligation to the troops that served and died. And what I wanted to do was fix it up."

Marzello found out the Naval Park had neither the funding nor the manpower to maintain the landscaping, so he decided to do it himself.

He recruited more than 50 other volunteers like Jim Ecker.

"I figured this is the least i can do. It's the way I can help," said Ecker.

Ecker thinks about his service in the Air Force from 1969 to 1974, and about the sacrifice of others as he volunteers in the park twice each week. The dirt under the nails and aching knees are worth it, Ecker says, because gardening is his therapy.

"I was lucky enough to come out of a war in good shape so it's time now for me to give back to those who either didn't or didn't make it back at all," said Ecker.

The park is a tribute to our troops - and now thanks to a group of dedicated Good Neighbors - it's beauty reflects that.

"It was our obligation to make it look good. And I think we're doing our best to do that," said Marzello.

The volunteers come every Wednesday and Saturday morning and they are always looking for more help. There will also be a benefit August 19 called "Party in the Park- A Tribute to our Troops" with all donations going toward the landscape project and revitalization of the park's ships and museum. For more information about the benefit, click here.

If you'd like to nominate a "Good Neighbor" e-mail Melissa.Holmes@wgrz.com or call 716-849-2216.

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