The column that asks what is a Cadillac Escalade doing at the drive-thru of a Vineland Wendy’s at lunchtime, and is this crunch time for not just the poor people?
By Jack Hummel
Radio: 92.1 FM WVLT Saturdays noon to 2 p.m.
U.S. Army: RA13815980
Google all columns at jackhummelblog
Thank you for your service, Warren Robinson, even though you didn’t get at least a Bronze Star for capturing 300 Germans with the help of one other soldier.
“Mayor Albert Kelly is calling the City of Bridgeton and area communities to a visible, tangible demonstration of unity.
“He is especially calling on the communities of faith to take the lead. There is UNITY IN CommUNITY!
“Be there Saturday, 2-5 p.m., at the Bridgeton City Hall Annex steps!”
— Mike Schuelke,
taking your picture
How many city leaders will be there?
Drug dealers welcome.
Does that include marching south and seeing how much we can swell the ranks, then marching north and seeing if we can get the ethnic majority in the city to march alongside us?
Do we have a new city logo coming out in three colors?
All Gaul was divided into three parts.
So is Bridgeton.
“Talking about high school football, it would be nice to see a Bridgeton High School football score in the paper that is considered the local Bridgeton paper.
— Russ DeCamp,
Da Nang, Ap Bac, Pleiku, Van Tuong, La Drang, Khe Sanh
The Press of Atlantic City came to the driveway Monday and no paper today.
Two days without Sudoku is two days without brain training.
Something tells us we’re at the end of the route.
“Old farmer I help now has 15 cats. It started with one that got dumped off.
“It costs me 40 bucks a week to feed them
“They all need fixing.”
— Shep in Greenwich,
Da Nang, Ap Bac, Pleiku, Van Tuong, La Drang, Khe Sanh
“Come on out tonight to Skate2000, from 4 to 6 p.m.
“Bridgeton Pal is offering the next 10 weeks to all PAL members at no cost! That’s right, no cost to all PAL members.
“If you’d like to become a PAL member, we will be taking new members at any time! You can sign up at the skating rink or at the Bridgeton Police Department.”
— Bridgeton PAL
“Well, folks, I had a great night substituting in the Tuesday night league atCampani’s Legacy Lanes, rolling a 219-300-247 for a 766 series.”
— Brian Shiflet
Did Megan Davis try to take your lane?
Mike Bucci can’t believe the Eagles are underdogs against Minnesota at home on Sunday.
When will fans ever learn that every good quarterback has a good offensive line?
The Eagles do not have a good offensive line.
Dallas has a great offensive line.
The Redskins have a great offensive line.
And the same coach built both of them.
Sunday may wind up 6-3 because Minnesota is down to its third-string left tackle, Sam Bradford’s most important protector on his blind side.
But, then, there are the Eagles’ penalties at a rate a Keystone Cop would appreciate.
“The Village Mentors is a new professional mentoring and success coaching organization for youth and teens.
“We are devoted to empowering youth and teens to achieve their life and career goals through effective success coaching and professional mentorship.
“Our mentoring and career exploration program (for teens) primarily focuses on Career and College Readiness and Exploration, Professional and Leadership Development, Community Service and Citizenship, and Global Education.
“You can learn more about The Village Mentors at www.TheVillageMentors.com.”
— Bryan “Real” Smith
Bryan Smith, former executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta, founder of The Village Mentors, is a passionate and purpose driven leader who is devoted to empowering youth and families through mentoring programs, workshops, literature, and public speaking.
Bryan has over 9 years of experience impacting the lives of youth and adults leadership and professional development, community outreach and development, and event planning.
Mr. Bryan is currently the co-producer of “Takes a Village,” a documentary that is based on community leaders and members unifying to develop and implement proactive solutions to defeat the challenges that we face in our poverty stricken communities.
The filming is now being taken place in Bridgeton.
BRYAN SMITH WITH HIS KIDS.
It won’t be accomplished by Trenton watching the streets of Newark run red every night, and it won’t be accomplished in Washington, where they don’t recognize an average American anymore.
It has to be accomplished in the trenches, on the front lines where life as kids know it is six square blocks.
A little history.
Nov. 7, 2011
Sherman Denby saves kids. It’s as simple as that.
You can call him a teacher, but that’s like calling a diamond glass.
He’s a mentor, yes. But a mentor with the energy and passion that make people great.
Vince Lombardi comes to mind.
To your world, he’s Sherman Denby, who wears a suit and tie and reports to Cherry Street School every morning. To another world, he’s “Pops” and a lifeline between making it and losing it.
Sherman Denby works his magic at Cherry Street School during the day. And beyond with the rest of the time.
He went to Cherry Street School. He grew up in Amity Heights.
“I saw people beaten with baseball bats in the parking lot. I saw people pulled from cars and all their money taken. I saw people beaten with two-by-fours. One time on the basketball court, the ball rolled over in the weeds and I saw a leg sticking out.”
He graduated BHS in 1989, went away to college and then he came back.
“I had teachers here who gave a damn about me,” he said. “Annie Wright, Doug Rainear, Bob Hutchings, Miss Gerson, Mr. Mukoda, Vice Principal D’Appolito.”
He wanted to make sure that the kids in that neighborhood got the education that they deserved to get. He still goes down to Amity Heights and walks around.
“They put the black fence around it. It looks like a fortress. It has a black gate with points out the top of it,” he said. “When we were there, it had posts with yellow string across it.”
The drug culture swept through there in 1984.
Whoa! How many remember that? Is that in the police records? The newspapers of the day?
That’s when the beatings started in the parking lot. That’s when people from the other side of town started shopping at Amity Heights. Just a pick-up, of course.
“It was still a safe place to play, even though things happened,” said Denby. “We have good kids. We have role models, but we’re looking for more.”
Denby’s cell phone vibrates again. A student looking for a ride to Washington for “America Has Talent.” Pops would take him, but he has a prior commitment. It will be, instead, a bus or train ride.
Sherman Denby has an unbelievable network. One phone call — one — and he has what he needs. If they know it’s to help a kid, it’s done. He doesn’t put it on blast.
“I do it because of what somebody did for me,” he said. “Bob Spence is another person who looked out for me. He didn’t have to. He did some things for me and I will never forget that.
“Because he did that, I make sure I do it for somebody else.”
The same with Miss Annie (Wright).
“Every day she taught was a thank you day at Cherry Street School and I love her for that,” he said. “She made sure I was doing the right thing. She’s my shining star. Mr. Rainear is my shining star. And Miss Bentley. When I was in the seventh grade and we were selling candy and my candy got eaten up, I couldn’t pay for it. And she paid for it. She didn’t have to do that.
“My way of thanking her is to make sure I show the way for somebody else. If a kid needs a coat, you buy the coat and shut up.”
Does everybody in Cherry Street School have a coat?
“No. But they will have.”
He works with a group of teachers now that when something is going on with a family and we say, ‘Something has to be done,’ it’s done. If a kid comes to school and her hair is all messed up, we have a teacher who is a hairdresser and she takes care of it. We have teachers who play parents because they care.”
Some don’t leave school until 8 p.m. They live it.
“I don’t work on a contract. The contract says I’m done at 3:15. I don’t worry about a contract.”
God’s batting average is pretty good. It’s a total network no one could afford to pay. Are we making it? Are we gaining ground?
“It’s almost like a tug o’ war,” he admits. “You hope they make the right choices. You gain ground and then somebody gets shot. When something happens, you wonder what you could have done more. But, you go on from there. It’s already been done. Where do we go from there?”
Government is not the answer. The police department is not the answer.
“You just have to teach them the right way. No matter where you live and what the circumstances are, if you pour the right choices into that kid, he has the same chance of making the right choices as anybody else.”
Of all the kids he grew up with in the ‘hood, two have master’s degrees. He’s one of them.
“Welfare can cripple you if you depend on it too long. It should be a stepping stone to get you through a season of your life. If you don’t advance yourself while using it, you’re only going to qualify for a minimum-wage job, which might not support your family.”
His family stood by him.
“My dad was my best friend.”
On her deathbed, his grandmother told him he knew what he needed to do. Get back to the church, and he has. He took care of his dad before he died in 2009, and it was hard.
“But my students pulled me through it. When dad went to the hospital, the nurse said it me, ‘Mr. Denby! Is that your dad? You took care of my son. Don’t worry about a thing. You go ahead, I’ll call you.’
“When dad went to the hospital a second time, that nurse, I was currently teaching her son. She said, ‘You go ahead and I’ll call if anything happens.’
“When dad finally went to a nursing home, one of my former students told me, ‘Don’t worry, Mr. Denby. I’ll take care of him.’
Sherman Denby knows everybody! His energy is boundless. He turns away from the naysayers.
“The person who says can’t be done is often interrupting the person who is doing it. One piece at a time, we’ll get the puzzle put together.”
On kids reading below level: “You have to take the elevator down to their floor.”
Meaning, if they read at a third-grade level, you give them a third-grade book, even if they’re in high school. You don’t push them out.
Pops is tied into Karen Barnett’s Bridgeton Municipal Alliance Youth to Youth program, which is sponsored by the Governor’s Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse. Without that council, the program wouldn’t happen.
“It’s working marvelously. We run it year around and I believe in the expectations she sets — proper behavior, proper speech, proper etiquette.”
He supports her whole-heartedly.
“My classroom is open. Kids from high school will come in with homework or just to sit down and talk.”
Not everybody has somebody to talk to.
“We need more volunteers, but we need people who are committed for the right reasons. Everybody has something they can offer. A lot of these kids have never had experiences we have had.
“I’ll go down to the fish creek and somebody will see me. Somebody else sees my car.”
Much texting later, there are 15 or 20 kids around who have never fished before.
“They catch a fish.”
“Take it off the hook.
“‘How do you take it off the hook?’”
Some have never flown a kite. Some have never roller-skated.
When the phone rings, he answers it.
“You have to. You might be the last person that child had a chance to call. You don’t hesitate even if it’s 3 o’clock in the morning. You just go.”
He’s been to Cooper University Hospital a few times.
“Because it’s not just the kids at Cherry Street. I keep track of every kid I’ve ever had.”
Where they are. Who they’re hanging out with. Are you in college? If you are, I’ll send you a care package. I know what I’ve poured in. I want to know what’s come out.”
They all have his phone number.
His cell phone vibrates.
“Yo, Pops,” the text message starts out.
It’s one of his kids. He’s 18. Pops has been with him every step of the way since he was 13.
“I love him like a son.”
He tells his students they live in a large house. The walls are Grove Street, Route 49, Burlington Road and Shoemaker Lane.
“That’s their house because most of them don’t leave that area. They grow up there, they live there and some of them die there. We’ve got to get them out of the house.”
He had never skiied.
“Somebody asked me if I wanted to go skiing. Skiing? I never tried it. So I went. Now I belong to the ski club at the high school and I go skiing all the time.”
Now he got kids asking him to take them skiing.
“We took kids to the beach. Take them to a play, take them to a musical. How can you learn to appreciate it if you never do it?”
The kids helped paint the mural downtown.
“They go by it and they say, ‘I did that!’”
How can we help, Sherman Denby?
“Take a chance on a child.”
YOU CAN BOOK IT: It’s five years later and what do you think?