Cherry Hill resident awarded Freedom Medal for building community through social media

The administrator for the Woodcrest Neighborhood Facebook group, Jen Richman spends countless hours sharing township news with thousands of followers.

Residents who frequent the numerous Cherry Hill community Facebook groups may recognize the name Jen Richman.

The long-time resident is on top of all things Cherry Hill, sharing numerous links about news and events with thousands of residents on a daily basis. While Richman posts in multiple groups, much of her work takes place in the Woodcrest Neighborhood Group, a Facebook group created specifically for residents in that community.

Richman’s diligent efforts to keep residents informed are being recognized. She was one of 18 recipients of the 2019 Camden County Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Medal.

Richman first joined the Woodcrest group shortly after she joined Facebook in late 2010. She jumped into the group not long after starting a profile on Facebook and admitted the social media platform was completely new to her at the time.

“I had stumbled upon it and I started posting, not to the level I do now, but I started posting,” Richman said.

The founder of the Woodcrest neighborhood group is another resident, Neil Schwartz. Richman remembers how Schwartz was the lone administrator, until one day when she realized she had also been made one.

“I didn’t know Neil,” Richman said. “Somehow, he must have seen a spark in me. One day, I looked and it said, ‘You’re an administrator.’”

Richman said becoming an administrator gave her a sense of responsibility to keep her neighbors informed about what is going on in the township. She felt the group should be a source of information for people who wanted to know about what was going on in the township. Her posts include everything from construction notices and police news to notices about upcoming events.

“There’s so much information,” Richman said. “I’m a Facebook addict. I work from home, so I’m always on the computer, so I’m always looking when Cherry Hill Township posts something, Cherry Hill Police posts something, Cherry Hill Fire posts something. All these people, they aren’t following all of these pages obviously.”

Richman is the owner of R3 Memory Keepers, where customers can get their old photos scanned and videos digitized on various DVD formats. Since Richman spends most of her day on the computer with her work, she is able to easily keep up on Facebook.

As time has gone on, the Woodcrest group has grown in both members and influence. The Facebook group currently has a little more than 2,800 members, but Richman believes the real story is in how the neighborhood has become united through the group. Richman talked of how the group allowed residents from around the neighborhood to make new friends. In 2015, the group even organized a meet and greet at Woodcrest Country Club, a chance for many residents to meet face-to-face for the first time.

“People really are isolated and introverted,” Richman said. “We live in a world where you do tend to feel that way. The Woodcrest group does make you have a feeling of community. Even if you’re sitting behind your computer, you feel like you’re a part of the community.”

Richman believes the group has become strong due to her goal of promoting positivity in her post. When Richman shares a link, she frequently injects humor into her writing. Richman doesn’t just limit these posts to her own group, but also publishes them on other community Facebook pages such as What’s Up in Cherry Hill.

Richman also likes to allow residents to share their own thoughts or concerns freely, saying while she has strict rules against personal attacks, she encourages free speech and feels residents feed off of her mantra.

“I try to encourage people to post,” Richman said. “When you see the page, it’s pretty basic what it’s all about. It’s people posting about fun, positive things that are really happening.”

Richman’s impact on the community goes beyond Facebook. On Saturdays, she runs a workout called Bootcamp for a Cause at Voorhees Middle School. The event gives area residents a chance to workout. Each participant pays $5, with all of the proceeds from each event donated to a charity.

Richman credits her friend, Lisa Forman, with starting Bootcamp for a Cause more than 15 years ago. About seven years ago, Richman began attending the Bootcamp and was immediately hooked. On weeks where Forman couldn’t make it to class, Richman would lead the group.

In 2017, Forman moved to New York and asked Richman if she wanted to take over the class. Richman jumped at the chance and continues to run the event today.

“Every time we hit $100, we go down the line where every person gets to give (the proceeds) to a charity they want,” Richman said in explaining the class.

“It’s also a way to get to know people,” Richman added. “I love boot camp. That’s my favorite thing.”

Richman describes her workouts as a form of high-intensity interval training where participants will participate in exercises where they bring up their heart rate up throughout the session.

“I make them from scratch, my own HIIT workouts,” Richman said. “It’s hard. It’s no joke. It’s an hour and 15 minutes where you’re moving. But I always say it’s for all levels.”

Despite all of her volunteer efforts, Richman never imagined winning the Freedom Medal. Richman’s long-time friend and former Freedom Medal winner, Sue Levy Polikoff, nominated her. When Richman found out she won, she was in shock.

“It took me a while to honestly digest it,” Richman said. ”I’m like everyone else, where they think of community service as physical. But Sue said, ‘You serve the community. You’re alerting the community to many different things.’”

Richman said the support of her friends and the Woodcrest community made the award worth it. Richman had two tables of supporters who purchased tickets to attend the medal ceremony and celebrate her achievement.

Richman encourages residents to voice their opinions and share news themselves via Facebook and other social media platforms, saying doing so is a great way to build communities in today’s hectic world.

“I do think that when you’re in the know, when you feel involved in your community, when you know what’s happening, when you feel prideful…it makes you feel more involved in your community and it really can make you a better citizen,” Richman said.