A Sicklerville man and a Clementon man are among 11 Camden County residents who will be honored for their selfless contributions to improving their community at the 2022 Camden County Freedom Medal Ceremony, county officials announced.
Mark Bodrog, a Marine captain from Sicklerville, and Friends of Clementon Food Pantry Executive Director Dave Cornwell will be honored during the ceremony, which was postponed from Jan. 20 to Feb. 24 due to the spike in COVID-19 cases, according to officials.
“The situation with Covid-19 is rapidly changing, and we need to prioritize the health and safety of our residents, the medal recipients, employees and everyone who would have been in attendance on Jan. 20,” Camden County Commissioner Jonathan Young said. “We will continue to monitor case counts closely and will provide updates if anything changes. Nonetheless, we look forward to celebrating the 11 community minded individuals who have been nominated and awarded this countywide honor.”
Bodrog says it’s his mission to “be a voice to the veterans who have bravely served and to bring awareness, understanding and compassion to civilians.”
As part of that mission, he and Marine Corps veteran Hunter Haskins wrote, “22 a Day: A Tragedy in Three Acts,” a plan that sheds light on the number of veterans who take their own lives in a single day.
Bodrog drew on his own experience, which includes two tours in Afghanistan, to write the play. He also penned “Second Platoon: Call Sign Hades: A Memoir of the Marines of the Combined Action Company.”
He earned two degrees from Rutgers University-Camden, according to his bio provided by county officials.
While he was at Rutgers, Bodrog played a pivotal role in helping honorably discharged veterans gain academic credits upon enrollment, thereby helping them get reintegrated into the academic world. Bodrog built on that idea when he helped bring three bills before the state legislature.
Cornwell is a Clementon resident who is a true advocate for food insecurity in Camden County, according to a biography provided by county officials.
The Friends of Clementon Food Pantry is a Client-Choice Pantry, which allows clients to choose their own options. Client-Choice pantries resemble small grocery stores with products arrayed on shelves and in coolers/freezers where clients can fill their bags and boxes. The option of choice gives clients a sense of control and variety. Dave is always finding ways to stock his shelves so community members are able to support themselves and their families.
At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, the pantry was consistently stocked with items for breakfast, snacks and lunch for children. In November, Friends of Clementon raised more than $5,000, and a large number of food donations during its annual Car Show.
Officials compared Cornwell’s goal of fighting to end hunger and deprivation in cities and at tables to that of Dr. King’s.
The Camden County Freedom Medal, created by the Camden County Board of Commissioners in 2001, is presented to civic leaders who demonstrate ideals and actions that reflect the principles of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“The individuals selected for the Camden County Freedom Medal truly embody the teachings and beliefs of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” Young said. “The recipients are striving to improve their communities and deserve to be recognized for their selflessness and sacrifice.”
The others who will be honored include:
Shirley Conroy, of Collingswood, the founder of the New Jersey chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America;
Greg DeShields, of Cherry Hill, a member of the Board of Directors at the Independence Business Alliance who is passionate about diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice in the community;
Chesilhurst Mayor Jamila Odom-Garnett, who is dedicated to civic awareness, public policy, corporate trailblazing and education;
Falio Leyba-Martinez, a Board Member of the Camden City School Advisory who is passionate about helping make the city a better place, especially for children;
Diane McKenzie, of Atco, is the leader of the organization, "Rubies and Pearls'' and is known in the Winslow Township community and surrounding area for her tireless efforts to help others, especially young girls;
Marla Myers, of Cherry Hill, is the Executive Director of Samost Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Southern New Jersey;
Nichelle Pace is Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Camden Business Association and possesses an unyielding love for her community and passion for issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion; and
Isis Williams, of West Collingswood Heights, is the president of the non-profit Haddon Township Equity Initiative and is known as a barrier breaker, an uplifting hand for vulnerable communities and a committed warrior in the battle for equality.
Camden Mayor Victor Carstarphen will be awarded the Congressional Medal for his work to keep the city safe and strengthen the public health of the community.