After the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police last year, Jen Andiorio and a couple of her friends felt like change was needed in Harrison Township.
Andiorio started to look at what was being done in the surrounding neighborhoods and found a new diversity group in Pitman.
“This came about organically, which is always best I believe, when a group of residents approached us about wanting to do more as a community to provide a platform for conversations on the national topic of diversity, equality, and inclusion, and how that relates to government and law enforcement,” said Mayor Louis Manzo.
Harrison’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Advisory board (IDEA) seeks to unite the citizens of the township by sparking deep conversations needed for a safe and inclusive environment. The board also seeks members interested in discussing issues on diversity, while respecting different opinions.
‘Eventually, we created and passed an ordinance and it has been a few months since our board has been solidified,” said group chairwoman Andiorio, whose term ends in December 2023. But she isn’t seeking glory in that role.
“When we established the board, people suggested that I’d be the chair, and for me, it seemed so weird,” she explained.
Other members of the board include Margo Brooks Carthon, vice chairwoman; Elsye Bittner Pekarchik, secretary; and Sarah Weaver, also a secretary. Members felt they would have more jurisdiction if the board was directly associated with the township instead of being a separate entity. It has created three subcommittees, for law enforcement, the community, and education.
The law enforcement portion will work toward a better relationship between the police and residents of the township. The community subcommittee is for the board to participate in community outreach; it recently released a survey to assess how residents feel about inclusivity in Mullica Hill.
“One of the things we found a lot in the surveys is that a lot of people feel the biases in the schools,” said Andiorio.
The board is brainstorming and coming up with different ideas to effect more inclusivity in the schools.
The IDEA board welcomes volunteers for its projects and events. Email IDEA@harrisontwp.us for more information. The next board meeting will be held on Thursday, June 24, from 7 to 8 p.m.
For more information, or to take the survey, visit the IDEA website.