Carolyn Grace was honored by Camden County for her efforts to revitalize and beautify her local community over the past few years
Gloucester Township resident Carolyn Grace has spent much of her career working to help others as a certified teacher in psychology, school social worker and principal or administrator.
However, starting years ago, she still strives to be able to do more around her community.
“I’ve always had a love of helping people, I think it’s always been in my soul,” Grace said. “[My family] was just giving people and cared about their neighborhood and the people that were surrounding them.”
She moved to the Brittany Woods section of Gloucester Township in 1987 with the goal of raising her children in a community that embodied some of her own core values, such as love for your neighbor, service to others and a focus on education and hard work.
After more than two decades in the township, she started to notice deterioration in her community. Grace, along with other community members, took action.
Grace was one of 18 Camden County residents honored for their contributions to improving the community at last month’s 2019 Camden County Freedom Medal ceremony. The award is presented annually since 2001 to civic leaders who demonstrate the ideals and actions that reflect the principles of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Grace is one of the founding members of the Brittany Woods Community Action Group (BWCAG), along with friend Shirley Johnson. The group first set out to decrease the number of abandoned homes, unkempt lawns, broken mailboxes and other appearances around the community that hurt the community’s overall property value.
Secondly, the group wanted, in the long-term, to create a renewed sense of pride for neighbors, as well as connect the community to resources and achieve other goals.
“Coming up with the Brittany Woods Community Action Group, we kind of just fell into it in a way that we realized we were mobilizing it, organizing it,” Grace said. “We would just sit in my kitchen on a Saturday, and on Sunday we would get up and make the changes that we could do within our power, and those that we couldn’t do we would go to [Gloucester Township] council and the mayor they would help us with that.”
Grace says she hopes to be able to make a better community for her and her neighbors through a grassroots effort.
Over the past few years, Grace and BWCAG have held numerous projects to help link the community and increase property value and appearance, having participated in the Gloucester Township National Night Out and started a yearly Community Clean-Up, as well as advocating for road paving to paving projects.
An ongoing project for the group is the Adopt-A-Mailbox project to increase curbside appeal. They have replaced more than 60 mailboxes over the years. The community, with help from outside sponsors, has raised nearly $4,000 for this effort.
“We all talk and I think that’s what builds communities,” Grace said. “I think you’ll find nowadays that people will live together for years and not know the person that lives right across the street until a tragedy happens, and then everyone’s outside talking. I don’t want to live in a neighborhood like that.”
The BWCAG has more events planned for 2019 as it continues to do work in its community. Grace says much of what the group has been able to accomplish is largely thanks to those in the community who turned out to help, Mayor David Mayer for supporting numerous efforts by the group and those who have donated to the cause.