By: Follow South Jersey Staff
CHERRY HILL, N.J. — The Camden County Board of Commissioners will present twelve Camden County residents the 2021 Camden County Freedom Medal at a ceremony to be held virtually on January 18.
The award, created by the Board of Commissioners in 2001, is presented to civic leaders who demonstrate ideals and actions that reflect the principles of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through selfless contributions to improving their community.
“Each year we seek input from the community to help us identify county residents who exemplify the values and ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” Commissioner Director Louis Cappelli, Jr. said. “This process always brings forth incredible stories of selflessness and sacrifice, but in response to a global pandemic with serious local ramifications, this year’s recipients have surpassed all expectations. This year we are honoring 12 selfless individuals who have made significant, and in many cases unprecedented, contributions to their communities.”
Similar to other virtual events the Board of Commissioners has hosted throughout 2020, the Freedom Medal Ceremony will feature pre-recorded messages from members of the Board, and videos highlighting the recipients and their contributions to the community.
The virtual ceremony will be available for viewing on camdencounty.com.
The following are the 2021 Camden County Freedom Medal recipients.
Christina Decristofor – Gloucester Township
Christina “Crit” Decristofor is the creator of Operation Kindness, a charitable organization that encourages being kind and giving back to the community. She is resolute in her message that we should spread kindness wherever we go, and that expressing thoughtfulness and empathy can unify and strengthen our community. Her projects mirror MLK’s devotion to community service and include providing household needs for struggling families, covering college costs for children of fallen police officers and firefighters, and delivering gifts for kids during the holiday season.
Gurpreet Singh Balla – Gloucester City
Gurpreet Singh Balla is a valued member of Khalsa Aid USA Team, a volunteer organization that provides humanitarian aid during crises in the U.S. and other countries. Through Khalsa Aid, Gurpreet has served free food to Cooper Hospital’s ER and ICU departments, first responders in several local municipalities, and Camden residents in need of food. Gurpreet follows Sikh principles and believes helping others during their time of need is a crucial role to fulfill in life. He exhibits courage for his considerable work during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing free services to as many people as possible during this challenging time.
Bobby W. Harris – Sicklerville
Bobby Harris is the founder of the DOT Organization (Dreams of Tomorrow), which fosters community development by engaging with teenagers and empowering them to invest in their futures. His organization aims to inspire young people to pursue excellence in academics, employment, and personal wellbeing. Mr. Harris has enlisted the help of other organizations to help spread his message of youthful positivity and self-advocacy, including Wawa, Atlantic City Electric, Sam’s Club, and Camden County College. In addition, he recently served on a census committee dedicated to properly counting underrepresented communities in Winslow Township.
Jennifer Lewis-Hall – Cherry Hill
Jennifer Lewis-Hall exemplifies courage as a keynote speaker for many organizations covering topics like human trafficking, volunteerism, community service, and education. She is a published author and journalist with an extensive resume of volunteer work. Jennifer is an active member of the Cherry Hill African Civic Association and established the Arthur & Evelyn Lewis Trailblazer Award in 2018, which recognizes scholarship applicants who have given back to their community. Civic engagement is a central pillar of her life, and you will often find her volunteering on committees, reviewing scholarship projects, or speaking before legislators on pressing issues.
Daniel Lombardo – Berlin
Daniel Lombardo reflects MLK’s hallmark philosophy of peace and focuses his efforts on human services and community corrections. Daniel is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Corrections and Prisons Association (ICPA) and serves as the vice chair for the North America region. He is involved with numerous professional and community organizations and has served in public policy positions in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Daniel’s accolades include an appointment by Governor Murphy to New Jersey’s first ever Sentencing Policy Study Commission, an appointment to the New Jersey Family Development Advisory Board, and chairman of the New Jersey Parole Advisory Board.
Sue Quinn Morris – Cherry Hill
Sue Quinn Morris’ work represents a strong devotion to community service; she is the creator of Patriot Connections and an ardent supporter of veterans. She works for the American Legion Post 372 and created the Patriot Connections website in 2009 to provide an online resource for veterans, military members, and first responders. The site compiles a comprehensive list of outreach events, collects and disburses donations, and researches and returns lost dog tags. She played a pivotal role in Camden County’s 50th Anniversary of Vietnam special event, bringing the 9/11 tribute towers and organizing police/fire escorts.
Larry Abrams – Cherry Hill
Larry Abrams is a passionate reader who founded BookSmiles in 2017, an organization that distributes books to classrooms and kids in need. While working at Lindenwold High School, Larry discovered the urgent need to spread the joy of reading to younger at-risk populations and to address inequities in the education system. BookSmiles has dispensed about 225,000 books, with nearly 60% of those going to Philadelphia teachers. Larry’s goal is to reach one million books donated with the help of publishers, collection drives, schools, parents, and civic groups.
Dr. Kenneth Hartman – Cherry Hill
Dr. Kenneth Hartman is an educator and former U.S. Army officer who served our country as a second lieutenant in the 1980s. As a member of the CHPS School Board, Dr. Hartman felt that schools were doing too little to honor young people in the military. He founded Our Community Salutes in 2009, a nonprofit organization aimed at recognizing and honoring high school seniors who plan to enlist in the military. Our Community Salutes provides assistance for parents with sons or daughters entering the military, and includes support from community leaders, government leaders, educators, and others who feel strongly about young people enlisting.
Chris Bruner – Cherry Hill
Chris Bruner is the President and CEO of two local businesses. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Chris has taken an active role getting groceries to those in need with the help of his wife Jessica. The two transformed their home into a command center, working out the logistics of distributing groceries, toiletries, and other items for those who were wary about shopping in the pandemic environment. Chris retooled his business model and paid his employees for doing grocery pick-ups and drop offs, eventually spending $15,000 out-of-pocket for those in need.
Jordan Grabelle – Voorhees
Jordan Grabelle is the founder and executive director of Love Letters for Literacy, and has dedicated over six years helping more than 28,500 at-risk children learn to read in all fifty states and 25 countries. Just sixteen years of age, Jordan’s interest in spreading the gift of literacy sprouted after volunteering at local literacy events with her family as a kid. She started Love Letters at age ten, which distributes handmade literacy packets that feature 26 A-Z flashcards, personalized notes encouraging reading, and multilingual instructions for playing games with the letters.
Stacy Johnson – Camden
Stacy Johnson is an active member in his community as a Camden school board member, karate instructor, and football coach. He is part of the inaugural class for Woodrow Wilson High School’s Sports Hall of Fame. Stacy exemplifies community service through his time spent coaching football and promoting youth sports, and he frequently serves as a public address announcer in Camden and Pennsauken youth sports games. In addition, he is a black belt in karate and has taught young people for 20 years.
Gerald Davis – Collingswood
Gerald Davis is the Executive Director of the TOUCH New Jersey Food Alliance in North Camden and manages the disbursement of dairy, dry goods, produce, and meat to mitigate food insecurity issues in Camden. Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, TOUCH was delivering an average of 18,000 pounds of fresh food each week to struggling families in the North Camden food desert. Mr. Davis shows his dedication to community service with a proactive role serving the community with TOUCH since the pandemic began, partnering with Camden County to supply over 6,000 county residents with food boxes in places like Camden, Collingswood, and Pennsauken.
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