BRIDGETON - Angelia L. Edwards spends her working life and some of her free time dealing with people who find themselves struggling.
Edwards, 48, is the founder and director of Manna From Heaven, a non-profit, volunteer organization that helps people in Bridgeton, Millville, Vineland and surrounding towns who struggle to put food on their table. During the past seven years, thousands have called Manna to make sure they went to bed with food in their stomachs or to know that a meal would arrive the next day.
While Edwards and Manna assist people who may find themselves hungry through little or no fault of their own, Edwards has also worked full time as a corrections officer at South Woods State Prison since 1997, dealing with people who had control over whether they ended up institutionalized.
"One thing that I wish that I could see, and this has nothing to do with this town or Cumberland County, working with the state prison, I would like to see the African-American men wake up when it comes to crime and try to start to be an example for these young men that are following in their footsteps," said Edwards, who lives here.
There are good programs inside the institutions where they bring in the young people, but it is no longer called "scared straight" like it was during the 1970s; (now) we are dealing with a generation that is not afraid, Edwards said.
"I'm a Bridgeton Board of Education member, and this is something I say all the time, and I'm really ashamed to say it, ‘I would prefer to work in a state prison than in these high schools,' and that's a sad state of affairs when you would rather go to a prison to work than to work at one of the high schools," Edwards said.
This is a not complaint from Edwards specific to this city's schools.
"That's all over now because these kids don't have any regard for anybody, and I commend the teachers that would even take on the challenge of educating these kids nowadays because you have to gain their respect, then, you have to deal with these parents that are more or less still dropping them off for the babysitting thing, not the educational piece. Let me drop these kids off to give myself a break," Edwards said.
There are some children that do want to learn. There are many good parents out there, whether they be young or middle aged, that are trying to do the right thing by their children, Edwards said.
"The challenge for African-Americans is to try to do what's right and keep our behinds out of jail," Edwards said.