On a map, Moorestown and Camden are less than a dozen miles apart.
On the cultural and social spectrum however, they couldn’t be further from each other.
The former was named America’s “Best Place to Live” a few years back, while the latter was dubbed the most dangerous city in the country three years ago (and has ranked in the top 10 for many more).
With that in mind, parishioners at Our Lady of Good Counsel (OLGC) got together recently to erect a visual reminder of the plight of their neighbor city—which broke a longstanding record for homicides this year—by planting 60 wooden crosses in front of the church, each one representing a murder victim.
Deacon Tom Kolon, who heads OLGC’s Respect Life Committee, said the display is a spin-off of similar arrangements spread out throughout Camden by the Rev. Jeff Putthoff, executive director of Hopeworks, a nonprofit that helps disadvantaged youth in Camden. Putthoff occasionally visits OLGC.
Kolon said the point of the OLGC display is to both raise awareness and motivate people to get involved.
“We want to encourage people to get involved and not just say, ‘Oh, well, this is the way it is,’” he said. “The issue is, politicians everywhere, on both sides of the aisle, are ignoring these issues all over the nation. But in Camden, this is 12 miles away right in our backyard.”
Despite its proximity, many Moorestonians are blissfully unaware of the senseless violence that plagues Camden daily, according to Dave Lyzinski, a congregant who made the crosses.
“I’m pretty sure they’re totally unaware of how bad things are,” he said. “For me, I wanted to do it because I wanted to learn more and help other people learn more.”
Members of the church’s youth group painted the crosses, adding the names of each of the victims. They were placed on the lawn the day before Thanksgiving.
Kolon said the crosses will remain on the lawn until the church’s nativity scene is put on display, at which point the crosses will be moved to the prayer garden, where they’ll remain until Lent. The church will then hold a prayer ceremony and distribute the crosses to the families of the murder victims.
Those who are interested in getting involved can visit Hopeworks’ Volunteer page to explore various ways to help, from fundraising to mentoring.
To read the Rev. Putthoff's and Deacon Kolon's statement on the situation in Camden, click here.