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Earth Day event honors Edgar Santa-Cruz, killed by a hit-and-run driver

Edgar Santa Cruz looks at the camera in a tight photo. He's wearing a Lacoste polo shirt with a small crocodile logo and standing in front of a brightly painted brick wall
Edgar Santa-Cruz.

When he was alive, Edgar Santa-Cruz devoted Earth Day to cleaning the streets around Cameron Community Ministry in the Lyell-Otis neighborhood, where he was a social worker.

Edgar Santa-Cruz holding up an award
Edgar Santa-Cruz at a University of Rochester event.

But people who knew him said his dedication to people living on the margins of society extended beyond one corner of the city. He fed and clothed the poor, cultivated community gardens, mentored troubled teens, and helped out-of-work adults draft resumes.

Now, the community that he rallied around in life is rallying around him in death by organizing a day of service in his memory on Earth Day, which is Saturday.

Volunteers can take part in any of 11 projects, ranging from building a stick library for dogs to prepping community gardens for planting and beautifying a school.

“All of these events that are taking place throughout the community are all projects that Edgar loved working on,” said Olivia Kassoum-Amadou, the executive director at Cameron, and one of the coordinators for the day of service in memory of Santa-Cruz. “And when I say projects, let me tell you, Edgar was in everything. You could hardly mention anything that he wasn't a part of.”

Santa-Cruz was 42 years old when he and his dog, Rosey, were fatally struck Dec. 22 in a hit-and-run at the intersection of Park Avenue and South Goodman Street while on an evening stroll.

A community garden. The photo focuses on a sign reading 'peace garden' in front
David Andreatta
Edgar Santa-Cruz often tended the community garden at Cameron Community Ministry. The ministry intends to name it in his memory.

The man who allegedly struck them, Master Bevel, was arrested shortly after the collision. He was indicted in March on charges of second-degree manslaughter and leaving the scene of an incident resulting in death.

Kassoum-Amadou said many people whom Santa-Cruz helped are still only just learning of his death.

“Even today, someone came in asking about Edgar,” she said recently. “I've had people come here literally in tears when they said, ‘I just had to come over here. I want to know, is it really true that Edgar, you know, passed away?’”

“It happened in December,” she added, “but the impact of him, his loss to the community, is still great.”

Santa-Cruz also volunteered at Foodlink and Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Andrea Lista, the executive director at Cornell Cooperative Extension, is one of the organizers of the event honoring Santa-Cruz. She said Santa-Cruz was a prolific volunteer who could just as easily be found on the front lines of an effort as in the background, setting up chairs or tables for an event.

“Edgar gave to the community in so many ways,” she said. “I think when we started gathering together while we were initially grieving his death, we realized how many organizations around the city he touched. He was everywhere.”

Organizers of the day of service in Santa-Cruz’s memory are asking volunteers to register in advance and say they should expect to spend up to three hours working on a project. Lunch will be provided.

David Andreatta is investigations editor. He joined the WXXI family in 2019 after 11 years with the Democrat and Chronicle, where he was a news columnist and investigative reporter known for covering a range of topics, from the deadly serious to the cheeky.