CAMDEN, New Jersey (WPVI) -- "Oh man, listen. I love my city," said Mayor Victor Carstarphen. "We're eight, nine miles long, but we pack a powerful punch on love, energy, resiliency, and I think it's important to have initiatives like this."
Carstarphen was born and raised in Camden, New Jersey. It makes him proud to now serve as its Mayor. But he understands that most of the work will not be done while sitting in his office. That's why he partnered with the city's Public Works department to design the "Camden Strong" campaign.
"Volunteers are coming out to empower the people and let them know that we're in it with you," said Keith Walker, Director of Public Works, "To help you clean whatever needs to be cleaned within the city of Camden from alleyways, storm sewer drains, curb lines, vacant properties and other things that may be a nuisance to the neighborhood."
Community leaders and volunteers from local businesses hit the road during designated clean-up days and attempt to reach neighbors where they live. With a bullhorn in hand, Mayor Carstarphen implores residents to participate by simply cleaning their own properties.
"I don't want to be hiding behind any curtain," he said. "You got issues, let's talk about them. When you have a tough conversation, we're trying to figure out a solution. And it takes all of us to work together."
One of the issues that neighbors highlighted is the condition of Evergreen Cemetery, located on Mt Ephraim Avenue. Public Works is no stranger to cleaning local resting places, but Evergreen is unique in that it is not owned by the city.
"Years ago, Evergreen went bankrupt," said Councilman Chris Collins. "It's dear to me because my oldest brother often times would go out to the cemetery with a rake and some trash bags and a shovel and he would clean around the grave of our loved ones."
Councilman Collins' brother is buried at Evergreen along with the councilman's twin sons who passed away shortly after birth. He is happy that there is now an effort to make sure their memorial sites are not forgotten.
"It is honorable to make sure that their resting place is clean," he said.
The Camden Strong movement will make its way to Evergreen Cemetery on the morning of Saturday, October 23rd. The city is asking all neighbors and friends to contribute to the effort. To learn more, visit their website.