Blog: 30 August 2013

Friday, August 30

It’s hard to believe that only one week ago, CamdenForward School—home to 140 kindergarten to 8th grade students—looked like it had been hit by a natural disaster.

Seeing the truck full of books, pianos, computers, and blackboards that had to be hauled away due to rain and mold damage, and then walking through the empty classrooms, I didn’t know whether we’d be able to open the school in early September.

I rolled my eyes when my ever-optimistic colleague told me that it was probably part of God’s bigger plan. It’s the first time in recent years that I didn’t feel good about what we could offer our young people at UrbanPromise. We had some classrooms without books, the carpet ripped up, and paint scraped off the walls. This was not the first impression of school that we had hoped to give our kindergarteners.

The first call we made was the right one: Jim Dugan, co-owner of Safety Bus, is a youth pastor, a member of our long-standing partner Moorestown Presbyterian Church, and all about disaster relief efforts. Within 24 hours, Jim had recruited over 150 Moorestown athletes willing to give a day to help restore our school. Within 3 work days, the school had been repainted, and the floors are being repaired.

Several churches put out the call for help, and we now have library books sorted by grade. The Moorestown volunteers are setting up little libraries in the classrooms. Pastors and laypeople have dropped off checks daily to help underwrite the $30,000 we need to restore the school, half for water damage testing and mold abatement and half for supplies that were ruined.

Metro Carpet just donated 2,000 square feet of carpet. All Risk Property Damage Experts cut their fee significantly and brought a crew leader back from vacation to manage our job. Krispy Kreme gave doughnuts, and Mac the Iceman dropped off ice each morning. Coaches from Moorestown fixed our gutters, and a retired Camden policeman spent 12 hours a day, each day this week scraping floors. Wegmans gave food, and Safety Bus drivers donated their time and buses to drop off and pick up the student volunteers. Emily Brown, a junior at Moorestown, called out of work for the week so she could help Jim organize this effort.

I don’t know if our rain damage was part of God’s bigger plan, but I do know that God was hard at work this week. He was at work in a junior high school student who used her last week of the summer to help us; in a businessman who set aside his week to lead an effort to restore our school; and in churches and businesses that raised over $10,000 worth of supplies and money in just a couple of days.

And because so many people chipped in and did what they could, our children are going to walk into a new school today.

Thank you!!!!

Jodina Hicks
Executive Director


Friday, August 30

Hundreds of Moorestown High School students took a break from summer vacation this week to volunteer at UrbanPromise's flood-damaged CamdenForward School.

While most high school students are busy squeezing every last bit of R and R out of their summer vacation before it ends in 10 days, a group of about 300 Moorestown High School-ers spent the better part of the past week straining and sweating fixing up the flood-damaged CamdenForward School.

The school—a private, Christian elementary and middle school operated by UrbanPromise in Pennsauken—was badly damaged by flooding after a recent rainstorm. Faced with serious mold issues just days before it was scheduled to open, UrbanPromise turned to Moorestonian Jim Dugan, who has assisted the nonprofit with a number of projects in the past, for help.

Soon after getting the call, Dugan, also known for his many mission trips to repair homes in West Virginia through the Appalachia Service Project (or ASP), hopped on his bicycle and peddled over to the Moorestown High School athletic fields to find recruits.

He pulled aside multiple coaches, who were readying their teams for fall sports, to draft students for the cleanup at the CamdenForward School.

To hear the students tell it, they didn’t need much convincing.

“When Jim called me, I could not resist it,” said junior Emily Brown. “I didn’t hesitate.”

Brown has gone on a number of ASP trips and said she “wanted to get that feeling back, of helping someone for the price of nothing.”

Several other students echoed Emily, including senior Ellie McGarvey, who said, “We come from a really fortunate town. People don’t understand that other people don’t have the same privileges we do.”

“It’s really rewarding,” said junior Natalie Soffronoff. “I almost feel like we get more out of it than the kids who go here … It’s the least we could do for how much we have.”

Dugan said roughly 300 students have volunteered their time at varying intervals throughout the week—ripping up carpet, repainting, sanding, moving furniture, etc.—and many of them have been there all week, including several who have jobs. The project should be finished by the end of the week, in time for the school to reopen Monday—just one week late.

“It just all kind of came together in one week,” said Dugan. “It’s just a wonderful example of humanity here … The athletes of Moorestown came down here on their last week of vacation to rebuild (the school), which I think is pretty damn awesome.”

Written by: Rob Scott, Moorestown Patch

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