YOUTH LEADER ESAU CHAIRS ACTION WITH MAYOR REDD AND CITY ATTORNEY RIONDINO
August 05, 2011
PERMISSION GIVEN FOR RE-PUBLISHING BY FR. JUD WEIKSNAR, OFM, OF CCOP/ST. ANTHONY OF PADUA
This summer I have been able to attend both city-wide and neighborhood meetings of Camden Churches Organized for People (CCOP). According to their website, CCOP is "a covenant among congregations to work together through collective action in addressing the many problems facing families and congregations in the city." After working with the CCOP and listening to government leaders talk about the organization, I can say with confidence that it succeeds in this mission. To paraphrase City of Camden Mayor Dana Redd, CCOP gets things done.
I have worked as a part of the Cramer Hill chapter of CCOP on the latest project: abandoned houses. Over the past months Cramer Hill CCOP has succeeded in placing 98 properties in the neighborhood on Camden's Abandoned Properties List. Instead of stopping there, however, CCOP led the city and the Cramer Hill Community Development Corporation in seizing twenty of these homes for rehabilitation and eventual sale to low-income families.
In preparation for a Cramer Hill CCOP meeting at St. Anthony's with the Mayor, City Attorney, and other officials, Bobby and I canvassed the neighborhood with other members. We spoke with many residents, letting them know about recent accomplishments as well as the upcoming meeting. We also conducted surveys about their experience with abandoned properties. On Friday, June 24, over 130 people attended the meeting at St. Anthony's. Camden student Essau led the meeting, in which CCOP celebrated the rehabilitation of the twenty houses and pushed for the process to continue. A speech by Mayor Dana Redd which praised CCOP was followed by testimonials about the empowering effect of CCOP by Norma Bell and Antonio Jimenez. Before City Attorney Marc Riondino spoke, a group of young Camden citizens performed an inspirational rap about CCOP.
Although I have only worked with Cramer Hill CCOP for a short time, I have been amazed by its ability to amplify the voices of residents, identify and attack the problems of the neighborhood, and effect positive change. I spoke with people about the problems that abandoned houses caused; the list included pests, crime, loss of property value, flooding, and fire. Although many deservedly complained about failed solutions and promises in the past, I believe that CCOP has a proven formula to deal with these and other issues. As a part of the community, this organization empowers the people of its city. By organizing people to improve their lives with the teachings of Christ, CCOP does more than coordinate community gardens or fix up houses or purge parks of garbage. As I heard from many testimonials, it equips people with tools to fight for what they deserve and inspires hope that has previously been lost. That is why CCOP has succeeded where others have failed--it is not an outside institution made for the people, but rather a community organization made of the people.