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AmeriCorps Eastern Region Names Camden Children’s Garden Its ‘2008 Hero’
Mike Devlin and Valerie Frick accept award for the garden's work with AmeriCorps volunteers in Camden community.
The Camden Children’s Garden has received the “2008 NCCC Hero” Award from the Eastern Region of AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) for its work in Camden with AmeriCorps volunteers from all over the country.
The Award was presented to Mike Devlin, the Executive Director of the Camden Children’s Garden and the Camden City Garden Club, and Valerie Frick, the Director of Education, for their outstanding support of the NCCC and its members.
Three teams of AmeriCorps volunteers worked in Camden throughout the summer and fall of 2008, splitting their time between working at the Camden Children’s Garden and in the community, where they planted and inventoried trees, built community gardens, landscaped daycare centers and painted classrooms. Altogether, said Frick, the three teams, each numbering 10 volunteers, worked more than 8,000 hours in Camden, and served 14,800 people.
In choosing its “2008 Hero,” the Eastern Region staff of AmeriCorps NCCC “reviews the projects performed by each team and solicits feedback from individual Corps Members,” explained Janet Boyer, the region’s Community Relations Specialist.
“In particular, we ask about the support received by the team members and general information about the type of work performed. The comments we received about the Camden Children’s Garden sponsorship of NCCC teams were overwhelmingly positive. All the teams that worked with the organization raved about the project and the specific individuals who worked there. In addition, the Eastern Region staff that worked most closely with the Camden Children’s Garden echoed these same sentiments.”
Not only did the AmeriCorps volunteers clean, paint, plant, weed, and help out with fundraisers and festivals at the Camden Children’s Garden, Devlin said, but they also learned about life in a community that is often described as one of the nation’s poorest cities, and about what a difference something like the Camden Children’s Garden can make in such a community.
They attended some Grow Lab classes in the schools and worked in some Community Gardens sponsored by the Camden City Garden Club, and partnered with about 20 other nonprofit organizations in the City of Camden as part of their volunteer work.
Devlin and Frick hope to expand their work with AmeriCorps volunteers in 2009. The Camden City Garden Club, which operates the Camden Children’s Garden, has applied to have a total of eight AmeriCorps teams – two teams of volunteers at a time – working in Camden between March and October of 2009.
If their request is granted, one team would work with the Camden City Garden Club, splitting its time between the Camden Children’s Garden and an expanded community gardening program; the second team would work primarily in the community with other nonprofit organizations.
The AmeriCorps “2008 Hero” award was the second major honor this year for the Camden Children’s Garden. In spring, Mike Devlin and Valerie Frick were the recipients of the national “Jane L. Taylor Award,” which is given annually by the American Horticultural Society to an individual, organization, or program that has inspired and nurtured future horticulturists through efforts in children’s and youth gardening. It was presented to the couple at a banquet in June at AHS headquarters, at George Washington’s River Farm in Alexandria, Virginia.
The Camden Children’s Garden wants you to…Come Outside and Play! The Garden is open 10:00 am to 4:00 pm Wednesday through Friday, and 10:00 am to 5:00 pm Saturday and Sunday (closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day). Admission to the Garden is $6 for adults, $4 for children (age 3 -11) and free for children two years and under. This 4.5-acre garden features a variety of themed educational exhibits for children, including the Dinosaur Garden, Storybook Gardens, Red Oak Run and Tree House, Cityscapes Garden and more.
Enjoy great indoor attractions including the Philadelphia Eagles Four Seasons Butterfly House, the Benjamin Franklin Exhibit and Plaza de Aibonito, a Puerto Rican tropical exhibit. Additional information is available online at www.camdenchildrensgarden.org, or call (856) 365-TREE. Take River LINE to the Aquarium Station Stop, or ride NJ TRANSIT bus routes No. 452, 453, or 457 from the Walter Rand Transportation Center in Camden. For transit information, call 1-800-772-2222.