MEVO, or the Mahwah Environmental Volunteers Organization, Inc. was founded by Eric J. Fuchs-Stengel with the help of several of his friends in July 2008 when he was sixteen years old. Eric, Samuel Berman and Shane Mitchell grew up together in Mahwah, New Jersey. While many adventures would persist throughout their years together, it was the summer of 2008 that changed their lives. Eric, Sam and Shane exercised – ran and rode bikes. They weren’t afraid of running a mile every year in gym class. One day, Eric suggested, “Hey guys, why don’t we go hiking in the woods, that’s probably better exercise then lifting weights in our basement.”
So they took off to the only woods they knew, the 3,300 acre Ramapo Valley County Reservation. A beautiful forest loaded with trails, a plethora of animals and great rocks and trees to climb. Coming from the pesticide-covered lawns and the suburban sprawl, it was magnificent to see all this just ten minutes from their homes! They spent that summer hiking through the magnificent forest, experiencing the natural world and loving every minute of it. The friends couldn’t get enough of the place they discovered. This is where our MEVO story begins.
In July of 2008, when Eric and Sam were on a hike, Eric noticed that something seemed “off” with the forest. Trash – plastic Tupperware, aluminum cans and beer bottles – littered the heavily travelled lower trails. Eric asked, “Why would people trash such a beautiful place, one unlike anything in the surrounding suburbs?” There had to be a problem. Eric loved the forest and the vast expanses of land – he cherished it and respected it. The Ramapo Reservation had changed his outlook on life. It made him happier and healthier than he had been before. There was so much more to the Earth – so many beautiful places, people to see and experiences to have.
But what was the problem? Perhaps those who littered didn’t understand the value of the Ramapo Reservation, or maybe they didn’t care. Nevertheless, Eric saw the trash and didn’t want to leave it there for another minute. Eric thought of his cousin Jesse Fuchs-Simon, who when he was fifteen founded the not-for-profit American Youth Understanding Diabetes Abroad, Inc. Trash is a problem. Founding a not-for-profit would be taking action to solve it. Eric called Sam and said, “Let’s start an organization to clean-up the Ramapo Reservation!” And at that moment, MEVO was founded.
It took the friends several days to think of a name and goals. They wanted to make sure that people understood who they were and what they did. They also knew they wanted an acronym, something that was flashy and cool to say. After tossing around ideas and letters, they decided on VEO, Volunteer Environmental Organization, which sounded like a good idea but still didn’t have that official feel. For two Mahwah High School students, living in Mahwah, New Jersey, who hiked the Ramapo Reservation in Mahwah, NJ, the missing letter was obvious. Mahwah! And that’s why MEVO is the Mahwah Environmental Volunteers Organization. Little did Sam and Eric know, but MEVO would change their lives. It spread across Bergen County and Essex County, as far as Clark University in Worcester, MA and New York University in New York City, NY. And the story goes on…