It’s 9:00 a.m. and there’s a slight breeze blowing outside Camden Academy Charter (CAC) High School. As winter weather creeps just around the corner, there’s a line of people in the parking lot waiting to fill their carts with food at the October 17 opening of the Cramer Hill Food Pantry.
Volunteers – a mix of parents, teachers and members of the Perfecting Church and community – have come prepared; dressed in double layers, fur hats and gloves, they worked throughout the morning to provide assistance to 125 food-insecure residents and families of Cramer Hill and the Camden Charter School Network.
Included among the volunteers are approximately a dozen CAC students. They arrived early Saturday morning, joining forces with adult volunteers to help with registration, table set up, and food distribution. The students then worked in pairs to aid residents and families in loading their shopping carts and bags with food.
CAC Principal Marvin Jones, who joined with the Food Bank of South Jersey (FBSJ) and Regine Edgerton, Community Engagement Coordinator for the Perfecting Church, to establish the pantry, said that the idea to engage the students for support was both fitting and necessary.
“The new pantry in Cramer Hill is addressing a significant need in the community,” Jones noted.
“When I saw how many people were pre-registering to receive food, it made sense to get our seniors involved. They have to complete 20 hours of community service as a graduation requirement, so what better way to accomplish that goal than by serving others right at home.”
The CAC students responded enthusiastically. Senior Katherine Chaparro, who had already volunteered at three other pantry locations in the city, said she and other students couldn’t help but smile at how thankful the Cramer Hill pantry recipients were for the students’ efforts at the opening.
“It feels like I’m making a difference.”
“It’s a good thing to just participate in events like this because you’re helping others,” stated Chaparro.
Principal Jones agrees. A member of the Perfecting Church and a dedicated volunteer himself, Jones takes pride in knowing that his passion for volunteerism transcends to his students. Twenty five CAC students have signed up to volunteer at the Cramer Hill Food Pantry throughout the fall.
“The opening of this pantry was a year in the making and has truly been a labor of love among the Perfecting Church, the Food Bank of South Jersey, and our students,” said Jones.