"Bloom where you are planted.”
The City of Camden has faced many challenges for decades, chief among them:
• Low-income and high unemployment
• Camden is a food desert, lacking access to fresh fruits and vegetables
• High food insecurity among city residents
• High adult and childhood obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease.
Val Frick and Mike Devlin, longtime Camden residents, aware of those challenges made the commitment to address them on the grassroots level, founding the Camden City Garden Club in 1985, an urban community gardening initiative focused on teaching Camden residents skills to grow their own fresh fruits and vegetables, through the repurposing of vacant city lots, which were in abundance, and a blight on the city landscape. Similar to Val and Mike’s award-winning backyard garden, CCGC grew and flourished and additional related programs were added:
1989-GrowLab/School Garden/Science Education Program-"hands-on" environmental science course for students in grades 1-8, framed around making science appealing and relevant to students' lives, interconnected with other subjects, e.g., nutrition, math, language arts, social studies.
1994- Youth Employment and Training Program (YET) offers at-risk Camden youth environmental science education through urban agriculture and community gardening while simultaneously providing them "real world" job experience and marketable occupational skills, plus year-round paid employment. Youth participate while attending high school, graduate, and pursue higher education and/or employment, affording them an achievable path to self-sufficiency.
1999-Camden Children’s Garden, situated on Camden’s Delaware River Waterfront, a 4 ½ acre horticultural playground designed for families and children to discover the natural world in an urban setting. Attractions include water-themed exhibits, interactive gardens, experiential education lessons with indoor/ outdoor opportunities for exploration and imaginative play.
Since CCGC launched nearly 35 years ago:
•Their community gardens and urban farms have grown 18% of Camden’s fresh produce annually
•56000+ elementary students have participated in the GrowLab Program •346 youth have completed the YET Program, with a 99% high school graduation rate
•Over 800,000 area residents have visited the Camden Children’s Garden.
These accomplishments are proof of the energy, resilience and determination of the Camden community, supported by these fundamental CCGC programs for the last 34 years. Sustaining them requires money, money to maintain the Camden Children’s Garden, buy the seeds and soil, wood for raised beds, curriculum materials, and pay the youth, and bring GrowLab to more Camden schools.
You can play an instrumental role in helping these programs run for another 35 years with your direct contributions and by sharing this information with your friends, family, neighbors and colleagues through social media, email, and even old-fashioned letters.
• $220 can pay for one elementary student to participate in GrowLab for a whole school year
• $100 can cover the cost of 10 flats of vegetables
• $50 can pay the wages of one YET Program student for a day
• $25 can pay for 1 educational lesson for a class trip to the Camden Children’s Garden!
Please remember…every single dollar matters and you can make the difference.