Greetings on this 1st day of December, 2013!
On Emerald Street, between 4th and S. Broadway, in the Waterfront South neighborhood of Camden, NJ two transformations have been taking place. They reflect each other, they support each other, and they represent the promise of the work of the Center for Environmental Transformation (CFET). I invite you to help make possible even more stories of transformation.
The one transformation is of several lots of land on Emerald Street. At one time those lots were filled with homes and businesses, but over time those houses and businesses came down, and the weeds took over. Then some women from Sacred Heart Church, with help from the late Joe Balzano from the South Jersey Port, began to cultivate the land, for flowers (marigolds, in particular) and for vegetables, with help from ladies in the community. Then Andrea came along, and a greenhouse rose from the ground, and the land became part of one acre of farm land. And now, with Ari, young adults are learning from this land, and the plants that grow there. They learn how to collect seeds, how to plant them, how to cultivate them, how to harvest the fruit, how to prepare it, how to market it, how to sell it, and how to celebrate the generosity of the fertile soil of this piece of land on Emerald Street. The work of transformation at the Emerald Street Garden continues to invite the transformation of people, young and not so young.
Across the street from the garden, for most of its transformation, has lived a young girl, now a young woman, who has had her own transformation, much like that of the gardens she has marveled at from a second floor window, or from her porch as the smell of basil wafted through the air toward her. Gloria played in the garden as a child, with Andrea, as a student at Sacred Heart Church. Later, she became a Junior Farmer with Ari, coming to discover ever more beauties of that garden across from her home. She came to a new language about her own experience, and her hopes and her dreams for life in her neighborhood. She took her new language, and her hopes, to the Rooted In Community conference in Los Angeles this past July, with two of her peers, and Ari. While touring areas of Los Angeles, she found her conference colleagues to be amazed at the things they saw: the poverty, the women selling themselves on the street, the homeless. In remembering her peers’ amazement, she remarked: “This is not so amazing. This is what I live with at home, in Camden.” However, she did not say it as one defeated by the reality of the challenges of Camden. She said it as one who recognizes those challenges, but also the opportunities available for someone with imagination and commitment and energy. She came back to Camden from Los Angeles with a vision, a vision born of her experience, and tempered by her education at CFET. One of the challenges of South Camden is the absence of fresh vegetables in the corner store. So, Gloria and her Camden colleagues approached the corner store owners, seeking a partnership between CFET’s gardens and the stores. Rather than simply bemoan the challenges of her neighborhood, Gloria and her Camden peers are working to solve those challenges, with creativity, hard work and commitment. The Emerald Street Garden is only one transformation on that street; Gloria is another. Both are beautiful to behold!
CFET is committed to working for these kinds of transformations. As we approach the end of 2013, we ask for your help in enabling us to continue our work, and to expand it in Camden. We ask you to consider a contribution of $50, $100, $250 or more to CFET. Your contribution is totally tax-deductible. You can contribute now.
There are transformations happening in Camden, and so much more is possible. Support us in nurturing those transformations. We can do more in this, the “invincible city,” with your contribution. Don’t miss this opportunity to do what you can to show your faith in the people of Camden, your hope in young people like Gloria, and your commitment to the ongoing transformation of Camden City.