(Camden, NJ) – Thirteen Camden County residents will be honored for their unselfish contributions to improving their community at the 2018 Camden County Freedom Medal Ceremony on Jan. 17. The award, created by the Freeholder Board in 2001, is presented to civic leaders who demonstrate the ideals and actions that reflect the principles of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Each year since 2001, the Camden County Freedom Medal has been presented to honor extraordinary Camden County citizens who have generously contributed their time and effort to better their community while espousing the ideals indicative of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” said Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli, Jr. “These exemplary citizens have demonstrated significant contributions in the area of community service. They serve as a model to us all.”
The ceremony will take place at the Camden County Boathouse at Cooper River, located at 7050 North Park Drive in Pennsauken New Jersey. The awards will be presented at 7 p.m. following a dinner at 6 p.m.
2018 Camden County Freedom Medal Recipients
Walt Baker, Haddonfield
Walt Baker knows no limits in his goal of helping others. Whether it be with more than 6 decades of involvement with the Boy Scouts of America, serving as treasurer and director of the Haddonfield 65 Club for a decade, about 7,300 hours at Cooper Hospital in Camden, or with his mentoring of others on how to handle CPR and a variety of other life-saving techniques with American Red Cross over 25 years, Walt is everywhere doing everything for others. Walt served in the US Marines during the Korean War and subsequently worked as an electrical engineering technician at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Center for 36 years in government service. But the most enjoyable part of his life was his marriage for 54 years to his wife Dolores, who passed away in June 2010. Together they had three sons and a daughter and five grandchildren.
Carolyn Bates, Winslow Township
Carolyn Bates started her 38-year teaching career at Edgewood High School, which in 2001 changed to Winslow High School, where she taught biology and chemistry. She was in charge of the African American Culture Club, which visited seniors throughout Winslow Township and performed at school assemblies. Carolyn was also the director of student peer mediation. Alongside her teaching career, Carolyn is also an active member of the community where she is a member of Christ Care Missionary Baptist Church and participates in the Civic Association in Sicklerville. For 22 years, she has been involved with the Winslow Township Rotary Club serving as President, Vice President, and Secretary, as well as helping plan and develop programs such as the mentoring program, Haiti relief efforts, and Strike Out for Hunger 5K, just to name a few. Carolyn retired in 2010 and is living a good life with her husband Russell, two daughters Crystal and Tiffany, and granddaughter Jasmine.
Cornelius F. Butler, Lawnside
Cornelius F. Butler has served three community organizations – the Lawnside Historical Society, the Mount Peace Cemetery Association, and the Benson Multicultural History Museum – and has impacted hundreds of people while doing so. Since the Lawnside Historical Society began in 1990, Cornelius has cooked hundreds of pounds of spare ribs, shoveled snow, mowed the lawn, and so much more. He also helps with fundraisers by setting up and breaking down exhibits. He used to only tend his mother’s grave at historic Mount Peace Cemetery on the White Horse Pike, but he expanded years ago to mowing the 11-acre lawn, clearing trees, removing litter, and repairing the utility sheds. And when the Benson Multicultural Museum needed help, Cornelius responded to assist the late Rev. James A. Benson, a previous MLK Freedom Medal recipient, by repairing roofs, walls, floors, electrical systems, windows, and doors. Cornelius and his wife, Chrissandra, have four children and three grandchildren.
Jerry Chambers, Collingswood
Gerard “Jerry” Chambers has spent over 50 years in Collingswood giving much of his time to municipal projects, business development, arts, and numerous volunteer efforts. He is currently the Director of the Collingswood Foundation for the Arts and the management arm for the Scottish Rite Auditorium, Grand Ballroom, and Hurley Mansion. When Collingswood was suffering from blight in the 1990’s, Jerry and other business owners joined forces with the local government to help turn Collingswood around – the town now lives up to its tagline “It’s where you want to be.” Jerry has been the volunteer chairman of the May Fair for 38 years and also sits on the Board of the Collingswood Historic Commission and has been influential in redevelopment projects, smart growth, and the lumberyard development. Jerry is no one to sit around and wait – he is a man with a vision and the fortitude to get things done and his passion for the town is contagious.
Davon Clark, Pennsauken Township
Davon Clark is a native of Camden, NJ and has over 17 years of experience and training in the educational and entertainment fields; obtaining two NAACP Image Awards for his work on TV One’s critically acclaimed docu-series UnSung and working as an educational instructor in Philadelphia, Bronx, Los Angeles, and Camden. Davon developed ADC Kid (A Davon Clark Kid), a startup children’s multimedia educational company dedicated to the advancement of empowering and enlightening through interactive literacy, fitness, and basic math skills. In 2015, he started the first Children’s Book Festival that continues to run each year. Last year, Davon put together a comic book workshop so that children could learn how to develop, draw, and get insight on how to create their own comics. He also performs interactive storytelling throughout Camden County to help children identify objects, learn fun facts, and utilize basic math skills. Outside of childhood literacy, Davon has conducted a Youth Empowerment Event, taken up efforts in Juvenile Justice Reform, and helps feed the homeless by giving out meals during the holiday season.
Muqaddas Ejaz, Cherry Hill Township
Muqaddas Ejaz is a committed Community Activist and Community Outreach Specialist in Camden County. She is of the Muslim faith and works with her Jewish counterparts as Co-Leader in the South Jersey Chapter of the Sisterhood of the Salaam Shalom, which promotes peace, understanding, and friendship. Muqaddas led the First Annual Camden County S.U.R.E. Summit this past June and has designed, planned, and led other community events, seminars, and cultural events for the diverse population. Her leadership skills have been used on various boards, including the Camden County Cultural and Heritage Commission. The Commission works to strengthen the cultural framework of Camden County by educating the community and supporting grassroots organizations with funding and technical assistance to deepen the interactions between cultural practitioners and residents. Muqaddas has also been the lead for the English as a Second Language and Computer Literacy program at the Muslim American Community Association.
Andre Fooks, Winslow Township
Andre Fooks is a producer for BenFM Radio who has a drive for healing the division of our society. In July 2016, when he was interning for the Preston & Steve Show on WMMR, he and two friends started a social media campaign called #PicsForPeace. They started the campaign to raise awareness against violence and racial discord. The campaign immediately went viral across the globe with people sharing their #PicsForPeace photos. It was even retweeted and recognized by Sarah Silverman, among other notables. Andre’s campaign helped to build a dialogue and create awareness for cultural diversity and unity around the world.
Victoria Frasier, Winslow Township
Many people talk the talk. Very few walk the walk. Victoria Frasier is determined to ensure that all residents – especially children – are on the path to success in their own individual way. She mentors youth within her community and is actively involved in coordinating the Winslow Township Family Day and National Night Out youth activities. She also performs puppet skits for Angels of Life with the Camden County Chapter. Victoria conducted a 10-week Anger Management program for the Winslow Township Drug and Alcohol Alliance. She is involved with the Township Board of Health and has organized gift giving for youth during the holidays for families in need. Victoria always encourages each individual to be the best at what they are passionate about and to be confident in their abilities.
James McCulley, Pine Hill
Seventeen years ago, there was an accident in front of the school that James McCulley was working at that killed a student. James was determined to do something about it, so he went to the school board to see if he could talk to the students about the dangers of certain actions while driving. The one talk became a program. James teaches the program in conjunction with drivers’ education class, without charge, in ten local high schools. It includes segments on texting while driving, street racing, distracted driving, and the consequences of these actions from a ticket to jail time. By doing this program, James makes the streets safer for the students he talks to and for other motorists on the road. James also works the National Night Out program and other borough and adjacent town events.
Charles Y. Murphy III, Cherry Hill Township
Charles Y. Murphy III (Kim) retired from his work as a civil engineer on the railroad in 1994, but he stayed plenty busy. He cared for his wife, Lois, who suffered from complications of diabetes and passed away in 2003 and he also started to volunteer. He was a Deacon and an Elder at his church, an officer of the bowling league, and he sang. In 1998, he became an AARP Tax-Aide. This program offers tax preparation help for anyone who can’t afford a tax preparation service. Kim attended classes, studied, and passed the exam. He began spending three days a week from February through April at the Pennsauken and Bellmawr Libraries helping people complete their tax returns. For ten years, he has been the ERO (Electronic Reporting Originator). This year, once he completes the yearly refresher course and passes the exam, Kim will be working on his 18th tax season. Kim is now happily married to Jane.
Jose Sanchez, Camden
Jose Sanchez has helped many people through his volunteer work through church leadership, community development, hurricane relief efforts, and most notably his domestic violence awareness work. He strives to educate people about domestic violence and helps those who are experiencing it. Jose is a leader in Bridge of Peace Church’s domestic violence work. He speaks with groups about seeing family violence in his life and modeling what a healthy relationship looks like to demonstrate that intimate partner violence is never okay. He collaborates with others such as Women of Color Task Force to End Domestic Violence, churches in Camden, and the Camden City’s DVRT. Jose has provided support to many violent relationships and has saved many lives. Most recently, he helped someone, who he met while doing hurricane relief work in Puerto Rico, that experiencing domestic violence. Jose responds when he sees the need – no matter the person or the setting.
Debbie Simone, Gloucester Township
In 2001, Debbie Simone joined the Blackwood Fire Company Auxiliary and over the years has served as Secretary and now President for the past 15 years. She organizes various community events such as National Night Out and the Pumpkin Festival, and the Fire Company Christmas Parade. Over the years, she has become involved with other organizations including the Unforgotten Haven, American Cancer Society, Susan G. Gorman, and St. Baldricks. The St. Baldricks organization has a special place in Debbie’s heart. St. Baldricks raises money for pediatric cancer research. There are local children that fight all different forms of cancer – Debbie uses that as her driving force and has managed to raise over $180,000 for the organization in the last 5 years. Debbie has been married to Peter for 19 years and together they have 7 children and 6 grandchildren with one more on the way.
Rick Taylor, Pennsauken Township
Rick Taylor has served the community of Pennsauken for over 40 years as a tireless advocate for children, youth, and families. His career in town began when he was hired as the Pennsauken High School (PHS) senior English teacher for 6 years and was the Assistant Football Coach Head Golf Coach at PHS. He then moved on to hold the position of Assistant Principal for 22 years. Rick then became Principle of two elementary schools in Pennsauken for 9 years. The last 5 years of his career with the Pennsauken School District were spent in Central Administration, where he was Director of Personnel. He also served on the Township Committee for 23 years, holding the position of Mayor 9 times and served his parish of St. Stephen’s as Lector and the Diocese of Camden on the Board of the Office of Black Catholic Ministry.