A "Shalom Apple Award" was presented to Wilbert Mitchell, Executive Director of Respond, Inc. of North Camden, New Jersey at the 20th anniversary Shalom Summit, Oct. 5, at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, California.
The Rev. Dr. Michael J. Christensen, international director of Communities of Shalom at Drew Theological School of Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, and Bishop John Schol, chairman of The United Methodist Church's National Shalom Committee, honored Mitchell in recognition of "Best Practices in Social Innovation."
"For over four decades, Wilbert Mitchell has worked tirelessly for the shalom of North Camden," Christensen noted.
Bishop Schol told Mitchell, "Where some see only trash heaps in vacant lots, you see tree-lined streets and community gardens. Where some see only dilapidated buildings and boarded up businesses, you see state of the art playgrounds, new homes, sustainable industry, and a vibrant waterfront where a prison once stood. What distinguishes your leadership from others who respond to needs and do good is that you moved into the neighborhood, [and] lived and worked there for a generation, long enough to see systemic change and transformation. And in 'seeking the shalom of the community,' you found your own shalom."
Communities of Shalom began 20 years ago when the first Shalom Zone was organized in Los Angeles in the midst of the fires of social unrest. But the story of peace and reconciliation continues. What started in one neighborhood in Los Angeles is now an international movement, with more than 150 shalom zones worldwide, and a training product that continues to equip new sites to transform their communities.
Congregational and community leaders from five countries gathered in Los Angeles Oct. 3-6 to remember, renew, and retool for the continuing work of "Growing Healthy Communities." For an overview of the Shalom Initiative's history, see: Practicing Shalom for 20 years.
Communities of Shalom is an international network of congregations and community partners that work together to transform their communities from the inside out. Trained shalom teams engage congregations and communities to build a future of hope and peace together through multi-cultural, multi-faith collaboration and assets-based community development.
Respond, Inc. is a voluntary, not for profit (501)(c)(3) agency created by community residents to enhance and promote the economic independence and general welfare of individuals and families residing in Camden City and county. This mission is carried forth in the provision of comprehensive services in child care; a senior adult center; programs for homeless adults, including assistance with rental housing and home ownership; youth services; employment; economic development; job training; and associated programs that help people help themselves.