Since 2001, the Camden County Freedom Medal has been presented to honor extraordinary Camden County citizens who have contributed their time and effort to better their community while espousing the ideals indicative of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
This year, 15 Camden County residents were honored for their unselfish contributions to improving their community at the 2016 Camden County Freedom Medal Ceremony on Jan. 22.
One of those recipients was Haddonfield’s Bill Brown.
“I feel very honored. A lot of people in the area do a lot of different things. Makes me feel pretty good to be recognized with them,” Brown said.
“These exemplary citizens have demonstrated significant contributions in the area of community service. They serve as a model to us all,” said Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli, Jr.
Brown is well deserving of the award for all he has worked with and done for the borough of Haddonfield.
His volunteering in Haddonfield started when Brown found himself laid off from his job as an industrial engineer and his son’s Little League coach didn’t show up for practice. Instead of having the boys wait around, Brown decided to pick up a ball and bat to teach the kids a few things. When the manager came, he asked Brown to take up a coaching position, and that is how everything began.
Brown found himself helping with the local Little League and youth football league. He also helped to start a soccer league in Haddonfield.
Brown’s work in the town blossomed to other areas such as the Markeim Arts Center, the Haddonfield Tennis Association, the Mabel Kay House, the 65 Club, the Indian King Tavern and the Haddonfield Japan Exchange. Everything Brown touched grew and became better than before.
“I feel a sense of accomplishment, doing something good. I’ve come up with different ideas throughout the years, and it is nice to see when your ideas work out,” Brown said.
Brown’s desire for bettering the community stems from even earlier in his life when he went to Northeast High School in Philadelphia. He said a quote from the Bible and the Athenian Oath really stuck with him. The bible stated “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might;” and the oath said “… we will transmit this City not only, not less, but greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.”
“I try to do that with any organization that I join. I want to leave it better than it was. I enjoy organizing and developing ideas to improve groups,” Brown said.
For all of these reasons, Carlton Chin, a Haddonfield resident and Board of Education member, nominated Brown for the 2016 Camden County Freedom Medal.
“I heard about the medal and that it’s for citizens who ‘contribute to the betterment of their community through their unselfish dedication of time and talent’ — and immediately thought of Bill Brown. As I have gotten to know Bill, I realized that he’s more than ‘the Japan Exchange.’ He’s also been involved with the Mabel Kay Senior Center, improving the tennis courts at Centennial, 65 Club and more… Bill has a lot of positive energy and he has done so much good for our area,” Chin said.
When Brown found out he was going to be honored, he was pleasantly surprised. It is not often one is recognized for efforts in the community, and Brown said it was an honor to be thought of and accepted for the award.
“It’s always nice to be recognized for your efforts. Last time I received an award for volunteering was in 1997 for the Citizen of the Year in Haddonfield,” Brown said.
Brown received his long overdue recognition for his efforts on Jan. 22 at the Camden County Boathouse at Cooper River.
For the future, Brown, who turns 83 in March, would like to slow down and fade off from volunteerism. He is still planning to stay involved with the Japan Exchange, however he feels it is time to pass the torch to someone else for their turn at making Haddonfield a better place.
“I enjoy what I’ve been doing; I don’t do anything I don’t enjoy. And I know a lot has improved since I’ve stepped away, new and growing. I was happy to contribute something when I could,” Brown said.