Mission Possible: Making Camden a Better Place to Live

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CAMDEN, N.J. -

On Thursday, March 16th, in Camden County, a variety of local community groups came together with no agenda other than to find ways to better their city.

“I had a lot of things with my mom and what not, and she would date bad people,” said Wesly Taveras, 17, of Camden. “And that affected me.”

For residents like Taveras, growing up in Camden has had its drawbacks, because of the location and some of the people there. However, the 17-year-old sees through the negativity, and like many others is looking for ways to make Camden better.

“It’s my community; it’s where I live," said Taveras. "And there’s a bunch of people here who I love [and] a lot of family members [here]. So to see them live in a place that has so much potential, but it’s not being tapped into, it makes me want to help and make it better.”

He joined dozens of others on Thursday who took part in an open discussion via “Creative New Jersey,” where local nonprofits, business owners, educators, faith-based leaders, and more came together with the same agenda.

“We say that we like to bring the grass tops together with the grass roots, and everybody else in between,” said Elizabeth Murphy, the executive director of Creative New Jersey.

It’s my community; it’s where I live.

To kick off the day's discussion on how to better the City of Camden, the participants came up with their own topics of conversation—problems and other things they wanted to talk about. Then they broke up into separate breakout sessions to figure out how to bring all of the ideas to life.

“I am really amazed,” said Angel Osorio, CEO of District Council Collaborative Boards. “It is really, really, very, very enlightening [and] inspiring to watch and to hear from so many people, and to learn things when you think, 'Well, I’ve definitely heard it all,' but I definitely have not.”

Topics of conversation ranged from education, safety, reuniting neighborhoods, honoring local veterans, and much more.

Creative New Jersey is funded by The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and seeks to eventually connect communities across New Jersey as one.

“It’s amazing because we’re building all of these really strong networks around the state," said Molly de Aguiar, the program director for Inform Communities, under the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. "And then we’re stitching together those networks and seeing people really come together around issues they care about all across the state.”

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