VINELAND — Mayor Ruben Bermudez is asking residents to undertake a task that he hopes will last longer than its initial designation.
Bermudez is designating May as I Can Make A Difference month, a time when he wants residents and merchants to help clean the city, undertake beautification projects and perform other acts of community service.
Those actions will make the city not only more attractive for visitors and potential investors, but also encourage local youths to undertake those projects in the future, he said.
“The benefits of volunteering can be enormous,” Bermudez said. “Children watch everything you do. By giving back to the community, you can show them firsthand how volunteering can really make a difference and how good it feels to help others. Volunteering offers a way to have a real and lasting impact.”
The request by Bermudez is one of a series of moves that officials in this Cumberland County municipality hope will improve the city’s image and upgrade the quality of life for its residents.
In May 2013, city officials announced what they said was likely the first unified marketing and branding initiative in the municipality’s history. Billboard, water towers, advertisements, commercials and websites for city government and possibly other attractions and economic agencies would use the new Vineland, New Jersey … Discover the Difference logo.
Also last year, Bermudez announced that the city would start strenuously enforcing its property maintenance codes, in part to make the municipality more attractive for businesses looking for a place to either relocate or start a new operation. The city issued citations to property owners and placed liens on properties to recoup municipal funds spent on things such as mowing too-high grass and weeds.
The city also targeted “bandit signs” advertising things such as psychic readings and bankruptcy services. The signs were illegally placed on utility polls and medians, creating what city officials called eyesores and safety hazards.
This newest call by Bermudez comes at a time when the city’s image has been tarnished by political battles involving the mayor, members of his administration and City Council. Some residents are seeking to remove Bermudez from office, and have until May 19 to submit the required recall petitions to the City Clerk’s Office.
Bermudez said the city is planning a series of festivals and other events expected to attract thousands of visitors.
“We want to put our best foot forward,” Bermudez said. “If we make a good impression and visitors find a clean, friendly city, they are much more likely to want to return to visit our restaurants, stores and shops.”
Members of the Friends of Faith volunteer group have painted fountains and cleaned flower beds in the mini-parks on Landis Avenue. The work was done in preparation for planting flowers in the parks Saturday, he said.
“We plan to continue at the mini-parks and tackle additional cleanup projects during the month, as well as other community projects such as painting and building handicap ramps for those in need,” said group leader Frank Ippolitto, pastor of Calvary Chapel Vineland.
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