In the heart of East Camden, New Jersey, is an organization dedicated to creating safer neighborhoods and improving quality of life through homeownership. Since its founding in 1985, St. Joseph’s Carpenter Society (SJCS) has created more than 940 units of housing in a city struggling to climb back from economic depression and violence.
SJCS grew from a desire to see the vacant homes that blighted the neighborhood filled with the local people looking for a place to live. They do more than simply provide shelter; SJCS created a homeowners academy in 1993. Since then, over 7,000 people have participated in classes on financial education and home maintenance. The class is mandatory, and SJCS also encourages new homeowners to become involved with a nonprofit coalition of 30 faith-based institutions whose mission is to empower residents to make their community a better place to live.
SJCS’ work is the essence of building a better neighborhood; for that reason, Bank of America presented the group with a Neighborhood Builder Award in 2011. The Neighborhood Builder program includes an unrestricted $200,000 grant and leadership training. The grant helped SJCS expand to provide emergency shelter, supportive housing and comprehensive social services to homeless individuals. Bank of America has partnered with SJCS for nearly 20 years, working together to serve the residents of Camden.