Our Beginning: Camden, NJ, 1913
Recognizing poverty, hopelessness, and food insecurity in Camden that were unmet by Churches, community organizations, and city services, concerned citizens in New Jersey started an outreach effort in November 1913. The work continued for eight years at 271 Kaighn Avenue under the direction of a Deaconess. (A Deaconess is a non-clerical order in some Christian denominations which sees to the care of women and the under-served in the community.)
In 1921, the Kaighn’s Mansion at 278 was purchased and became the center of operation until its demolition in 1925. The present building, erected on that site, was called “The Deaconess Home and Community Center.” The building was designed by Karscher and Smith, Architects, of Philadelphia. The building was erected by J.S. Rogers Company, of Camden. It has been in continuous use since 1925. A building on adjoining ground (acquired in 1958) was renovated and dedicated in 1964 as a “Craft Building” and is being used at present by our Day Care Programs.
And the overarching mission of the Neighborhood Center continues into its 100th year — to love our neighbors as ourselves, with abundant service and hope today and every day.
Learn more about the Mission of The Neighborhood Center.
An Increasing Need and a Lasting Legacy
The United States’ unemployment rate has remained stubbornly high over the past several years, pushing parents and their children everywhere into economic vulnerability and exacerbating conditions here in Camden for families who were already low-income prior to the 2008 recession. We have witnessed that a parent’s level of educational attainment is in turn a strong predictor of economic mobility.
Education that includes skill development linked to high-demand jobs with opportunities for advancement is fundamental. Likewise, the return on investment in early childhood education for at-risk children is significant over a lifetime.
This has been known since the early days of the Center. Ms. Ruth Flaherty, Superintendent of the Deaconess Home and Community Center, wrote in 1956:
“The first purpose and function of the center is to find out through careful observation and close relationship with people in a specific area their needs, problems, aspirations and hopes, and through sound organization to work with them towards building a better community, through physical, mental, social, and spiritual programs for all ages.”
She concluded: “Ages served are from three through adults regardless of race or creed. To serve God’s children in a four-fold life is the purpose of our being on Kaighn Avenue.”