Two decades ago, Camden County hoped to recognize residents who spend significant time and energy throughout their lives toward helping others.
Having honored over 500 residents since its inception, the county once again has recognized 13 selfless contributors at the 2020 Camden County Freedom Medal Ceremony Jan. 22.
The award, created by the Freeholder Board in 2001, is presented to civic leaders who demonstrate the ideals and actions that reflect the principles of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Each year since 2001, we ask the community to help us identify Camden County residents who exemplify the ideals indicative of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” said Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr.
“This year we are honoring 14 selfless individuals who have made significant contributions to their community. We gather to celebrate them in hopes of their message inspiring others to serve the public interest.”
According to the MLK Freedom Medal Committee, nominees must be exemplary citizens living in Camden County who have demonstrated significant contributions in the areas of community service. Any individual is eligible to submit a nomination, but residents should not be nominated simply for exemplary employment performance.
During the ceremony, a member of the freeholder board briefly introduced each of the 13 recipients, before a short video illustrating the person’s actions, background and hopes moving forward.
Honoree Harry Earle retired as chief from the Gloucester Township Police Department in late 2019. He served with the department for 32 years, including nine years as chief. As a lifelong resident of Camden County, freeholder Young said, Earle has always been a role model for others by helping to serve and protect others from danger.
“Harry has consistently taken on leadership roles while dedicating his personal and professional life to learning how to help those affected by violence, addiction, lack of education, mental illness and more,” Young said.
During his presentation, Earle said he was honored to receive an award associated with Dr. King.
“When I think of Martin Luther King Jr., I think about leadership and his passion for equal rights,” Earle emphasized. “To receive an award associated with somebody like that is just an amazing honor.”
Earle has served on numerous boards and with various committees to implement changes across Camden County and help change the lives of many. Potentially one of the most important is the development within Gloucester Township of Project SAVE, which connects low-level substance abusers with supporting agencies. Earle also created a program that assists runaway youth and identifies victims of sexual exploitation.