The Transformation of Admiral Wilson Boulevard
THE TAKING OF THE BOULEVARD
"That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies..."
It was the year of 1990, the members of Gatekeepers Fellowship Church (a.k.a. Soul Searchers Evangelistic Ministries) were believing God to divinely intervene into the affairs of men. Specifically needed was a favorable ruling from the Camden, New Jersey Zoning Board in order to have a church established on the infamous Admiral Wilson Boulevard. The laws of the land stated that Admiral Wilson Boulevard was a place of commercial residence only. The infamy came because of the active buying and selling of human flesh through prostitution and the dealing of drugs to the addicted. On any given evening you could ride down Admiral Wilson Boulevard and think you were transported into the red light district of New Orleans.
On April 1991, the zoning board unanimously voted to grant permission to Gatekeepers Fellowship Church to be the first church ever on Admiral Wilson Boulevard. The news media recognized a remarkable story and besides local coverage, the news was picked up by Associated Press (spreading coverage in papers from Alabama to Colorado). Senior Minister, Dr. James D. Treadwell, Jr., fervently believed that God had ordained that they be on the "front line" of the battle which rages between good and evil, and that God would use them in the transforming of the boulevard and surrounding area. The congregation caught the vision, and with fervency literally marched into their new establishment. The heartbeat of Dr. Treadwell has always been "to make a difference". Since his commission from the Lord in 1976, he continues to do just that.
Of course, all did not welcome their presence on the Boulevard. Across the street from the church were The Wilson Motel, The French Quarters and the ShowGirl Palace. These were nests for the strongholds of perversion and addiction to operate from. The manager of the French Quarters, went on record publicly as stating that the church "would have no effect on [his] business, no effect on the Boulevard. I don't know why they would pick a spot that is notorious for what it is notorious for." He couldn't have been more wrong. The Police have documented reports of crime going down a whopping 64% not only on Admiral Wilson Boulevard, but the City of Camden as the church held their ground on the frontline. Many neighborhood mothers, grandmothers and residents in general reported a new sense of safety. The 24-hour prayer line and the doors being open 24 hours a day as a community lighthouse transcended traditional limits to ministry. The impact was widely felt.
The Wilson Motel closed. In June of 1995 the Church received ownership of the closed Wilson Motel and The French Quarters go-go bar and lounge located on the premises. The manager of the French Quarters who had gone on record years prior stating the church would make no difference, was officially given eviction papers by its new owners, Gatekeepers Fellowship Church. On November 5, 1995, the members of Gatekeepers Fellowship Church victoriously occupied the remodeled and renovated building (which was formerly the French Quarters, a go-go-bar and lounge). Along with this came the Wilson Motel located on three acres of land. Also, on November 5, U.S. Congressman Andrews declared it "Gatekeepers Fellowship Church Day." Front-page news coverage in the Philadelphia Inquirer and Courier-Post as well as television coverage on Channels 6, 10 and 17 and 1010 NewsRadio heralded the victory. Dr. Treadwell was widely quoted in the media as saying, "Where once there was go-go-girls you now hear shouts of go-go-God!"
THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE BOULEVARD
Several years later , Governor Whitman announced "The Gateway Project.” Admiral Wilson Boulevard, once known as an eyesore of perversion and drug addiction for all those who entered the city, is now a scenic park area with bicycle trails.
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In addition to the renovating and transformation of the Boulevard, many residential areas such as McGuire Projects were renovated and remodeled. And now where there were drug infested, partially abandoned projects there stands newly built townhouses, newly paved sidewalks and beautiful planted landscaping.