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Camden residents launch grassroots effort to save Children's Garden

Earlier this month, the Camden City Garden Club (CCGC) received a letter from the State of New Jersey informing them that they planned to turn over 90 percent of the Camden Children’s Garden to Adventure Aquarium operator Herschend Family Entertainment. It's a move that would open up development opportunities for the Aquarium, but, in doing so, render the garden obsolete.

The garden comprises 4.5 acres right on the Camden waterfront. It has become a part of the community fabric, offering educational programming for local children (10,000 residents take advantage of the programming annually).

It’s also become a neighborhood necessity, producing over $2 million in fresh produce a year and helping feed 12 percent of Camden residents in a city considered one of the worst food deserts in the United States.

Once news of the garden’s fate reached the Camden community, a grassroots effort to save it took off. A Facebook group, "Save the Children’s Garden" was quickly created. It has already garnered 6,500 members and 1,500 petition signatures asking to spare the Garden.

Members of the Camden City Garden Club and other grassroots volunteers met Monday night to discuss action going forward, ultimately deciding to march to the City Council meeting this Tuesday at 4 p.m. to protest the decision.

Camden residents are also stepping up individually. Garden users Lindsey and Andrew Markelz are partnering with CCGC through their online business Charity Gift Market, a marketplace for charities that sell products to support their work. They’re asking their customers to support the effort to save the Garden by purchasing the children's book City Green. All proceeds will go into a fund dedicated to saving the Garden.

"Kids need affordable, accessible, safe and inviting places like the Camden Children's Garden," says Lindsey Markelz, CEO and co-founder of Charity Gift Market. "I realize that both sides probably have a case to be made legally, but here's the bottom line for me: The garden is good for Camden. I don't want to see it leave or be moved to a place that inhibits its activities and growth."

Source:  Lindsey Markelz, CEO and Co-Founder of Charity Gift Market
WriterGreg Meckstroth
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