Slaton Park dedication set for Friday

Janice D. Slaton

Special to the OBSERVER

New pocket parks have been developed on three small Department of Transportation parcels along Maple Avenue at Sixth Street between Jussie’s Barber Shop and Mary’s Deli. A group of residents from 600 Main Street organized by Skeeter Tower began efforts to beautify the neighborhood five years ago with a grant from Lake Shore Bank which covered the planting of trees along the block and plantings on the middle parcel as well as an attempt to engage property owners for property improvements.

Two years ago, the group competed with other neighborhoods for a Neighborhood Pride grant from the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation to continue beautification of the area and improve the image of a main entry into the city. The vision was of an oasis of quiet and beauty in a fairly neglected walkable section of the city.

A central component of this vision was a garden to commemorate the life and work of Janice D. Slaton who had given so much of her life to residents of the city and stands as such a positive role model for city youth.

Janice D. Slaton, Esq. was born on August 9, 1962, in Dunkirk, to Hewitt Slaton and the late Blanchie Slaton. She went to be with her Lord and Savior on Saturday, December 10, 2011, after a three year battle with breast cancer.

Janice attended Dunkirk High School and the State University of New York at Fredonia where she graduated cum laude with a B.S. in Business Administration. She also attended the University of Buffalo Law School where she graduated in 2001 with a Juris Doctorate.

After an internship with the Chautauqua County District Attorney’s office, Jan was hired as an Assistant District Attorney for the County of Chautauqua. Her love of the law was encouraged by her mentors, James Subjack, Esq. and William Coughlin, Esq. In 2002, she accepted a position in the Public Defender’s Office, a position she held until her passing. Often encouraged to move from her neighborhood now that she was a lawyer, she would respond that she did not become a lawyer to leave her community.

In 2002, Jan was certified as a Crime Scene and Evidence Collection Specialist through the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Department. She was also an adjunct instructor at the State University of New York at Fredonia where she taught Criminal Procedure Law.

Jan started an organization, “A Better Tomorrow,” whose mission was to create a more rewarding and fulfilling childhood experience for city youth in preparing them for a productive and happy adulthood; to overcome the challenge of poverty, prevent incarceration and negative contact with the criminal justice system; and create positive relationships. She used her own private funds to finance the organization to serve local youth in the community.

She was also the proud sponsor of the Juneteenth Ice Cream Eating Contest providing all prize monies and materials. Jan was always seen at the Juneteenth celebrations working at the Rib Shack for the Open Door Church serving her famous “macaroni-n-cheese.”

Jan was a member and a former treasurer of the Dunkirk-Fredonia Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Juneteenth Celebration Committee, Lions Club, former Red Cross board member, former Chautauqua County Youth Bureau board member, and former Chautauqua Home Rehabilitation Improvement Company board member. She was also a member of the Dunkirk Democratic Committee.

Jan was also a member of the Open Door #3 Church of God in Christ and the Logos District of the Church of God in Christ Western New York Second Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction. She loved her church and held many posts in the church. She was President of the Usher Board, Sunday School teacher, member of the Peter P. Mann Memorial Choir and Church Reporter.

Construction of the garden was aided by youth from Dunkirk High School J.R.O.T.C., Job Corps, and volunteers from AmeriCorps. Yarnbombing materials were donated from SUNY Fredonia Art Department to brighten the corner.

Architects from PlusFarm contributed to the plans with an exquisitely unique play area for children which was eventually moved to Washington Park, still to be constructed, as well as two game tables (dominos, chess and checkers) which will be placed later this summer on the first parcel, along with a community bulletin board and a Tiny Free Bilingual Library. Sam Mancuso’s Elephant Ear plants grace this parcel every season.

On Friday, June 14, at 6 p.m. the Juneteenth Committee will kick off its annual Juneteenth Celebration in the City of Dunkirk by dedicating the Main Street garden in the memory of the late Janice D. Slaton, Esq.

The dedication ceremony will include representatives from the Department of Transportation, Chautauqua County Health Department, Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation, Lake Shore Bank, Mayor Willie Rosas, William Coughlin, Ned Divine, family, friends, former clients and many others who have contributed their time, efforts and funds to the success of the pocket parks. There will also be a special prayer for the community from local clergymen.

The public is invited to attend.

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