Mentoring Camden's Youth to Flourish

by Denise Henhoeffer/Courier Post
Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Camden - Three successful men raised without fathers were among the speakers at Wednesday's Camden County Mentoring Institute luncheon at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa lost his dad at 8. Former Philadelphia Mayor W. Wilson Goode's father went to prison when his son was a teenager. Camden Police Chief Scott Thomson's father died when he was 9.

"But for the grace of God - and three fat cops who couldn't catch me - I wouldn't be here today," Thomson told the crowd.

The difference in their lives, all three recalled, were the other male figures, family, friends, and volunteers like those who filled the audience at Wednesday's luncheon to highlight Camden mentoring programs.

"A loving, caring adult in the life of a child can make a huge difference in that child's life," Goode said in remarks that had the power and sway of a sermon.

Good last spoke in Camden five years ago, after a controversial segment of ABC's "20/20" about youth in poverty spurred a call for
action among agencies and other city stakeholders. But Goode, founder of a Philadelphia-based mentoring partnership, praised the city's progress since then.

"Let me tell you what I know," he said of Camden.  "There aren't many places that can put a room together like this on a Wednesday for lunch." 

In conjunction with other agencies such as Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Diocese of Camden, the Center For Family Services sponsors mentor programs and training that pair Camden youth with adults who volunteer one hour a week.

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