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Polish American Citizens' Club of Camden County, NJ

Organized in the City of Camden, New Jersey on June 8, 1914
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                           PACC History                            

Established in the City of Camden, NJ on June 8,1914

 

More than One Hundred Years ago, an ambitious, young Polish immigrant named Josef Zbieratzki had a plan to assist new arrivals who had found their way to America from Poland.

He had three principal aims:

 

1)     Prepare people of Polish ancestry for better American citizenship.

      2)     Conduct a school and library for all residents of the community.

      3)     Build a community home which would later be a center for social, civic and patriotic activities.

 

 

Josef Zbieratzki gathered together six other naturalized Polish-American citizens to a meeting in 1914 to plan and form classes to teach the new arrivals how they, too, could go through the naturalization process. They met in the Polish National Catholic Church of the Resurrection of Christ on Mount Ephraim Avenue in Camden.

 

As a result, the Polish Citizens Club, which was later renamed the Polish American Citizens Club in 1927, was born.

Three of the original founders immediately volunteered to help instruct the immigrants. They were Daniel Hoyt, of the Camden YMCA naturalization class; Edward L. Canning, the district president of the Camden County Patriotic Order Sons of America; and Stella Liwoch, an active area resident.

 

In its first year of existence, the club managed to help 25 Polish immigrants become United States citizens. Josef Zbieratzki is highly regarded as the principal founder of the Club, and became the first president and served until 1926. He lived in Camden for more than 50 years.

 

The Club’s original Constitution also required it to participate in politics. The club could not affiliate with one political party, but was directed by its constitution to work with such individuals or groups who would best serve the political interests of Polish Americans in Camden and vicinity on the Federal, State, and County levels.

 

The Great Depression years were extremely hard on the Club, and it's members.

 

Following the end of World War II, the PACC helped many refugees from war-torn Poland and other surrounding countries.

 

First and second Polish-American generations have come and gone, but were inspired by the leaders of the club, these new generations produced many professionals in our community, Lawyers, Doctors, Teachers, Accountants, Nurses, Artists, and highly skilled workers.

For many years, the club had it's gatherings at 1559 Mount Ephraim Avenue in Camden. In 1949, with the help of $130,000 in pledges, it moved around the corner to a new recreational and education center at 1038 Lowell Street. The new Clubhouse was complete with an extensive library, a full professional kitchen and two social halls.

 

There was also the assistance given to the Club by Monsignor Arthur B. Strenski, pastor of St. Joseph's Church in South Camden from 1934 to 1965. It was always said that He was there for Club. One example, was on New Year's Day 1957 he opened the church at 1 a.m. for members working on the New Year's Eve party and for anyone else attending the party, and celebrated Mass. He was that kind of person.

 

In 1960 Stanley Mojta was elected President, during his administration what remained of an original indebtiness of more than

$100,000— in 1949 -- had been reduced to less than $1100. It is safe to estimate that Stanley himself signed up nearly 200 new members in 5 years.

 

 

In 1967 the club had 1100 members, and continued to be a mainstay of the neighborhood through the 1980’s. Leonard Drozd was the last President at the old clubhouse. Towards the latter 1980’s and into the early 1990’s he worked very hard in trying to keep the club and the old clubhouse going even though the neighborhood was declining and many of its residents were moving to the suburbs to escape the decline.

 

 

Then in 1993, it was decided that the building be sold to the Camden City Board of Education, and now it has become an annex of the Henry L. Bonsall School. Even today a lot of memories of its past continue to echo from within its walls.

 

By the mid 1990’s The Club then began to meet at the Oaklyn VFW on Manor Avenue. It remained there until 2007 when it was decided to move the meeting place to the VFW Post in Runnemede, a place for our 130 members to meet monthly. It is also a place where the club is able to sponsor Pinochle Tournaments, Social Events, and a place to hold our Annual Christmas Party. The club even participates in Runnemede’s  4th of July Parade. It has surely proven to be a great marriage for both organizations to this day.

 

On February 11, 2015 a major milestone was reached. After over 100 years, the membership voted in favor of changing the Club's Constitution to allow women to join the Club.

 

The PACC has a rich history, even former residents of the “Old Neighborhood” can still recall many fond happenings at the mere mention of the PACC. Many couples first got together there in Camden for it's popular dances, and some eventually married and had their wedding parties at it's Social Hall.

 

There was a lot of fun back then, besides the New Year's Eve parties every year, The Club had dances there every Friday night with music from a live dance band. The dance program there lasted for over 20 years. The club also had a special dance every year on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

The PACC still holds a special place in everyone’s heart. Especially, if you grew up in the “Old Neighborhood”. There are a lot of former residents who are never embarrassed to say that they grew up in the Whitman Park section of the City of Camden. It was the cleanest and safest section of the city back then.

 

From our 1964 Golden Jubilee Book, Stephen Bielicki wrote:

“Live on, Live on, O great undertaking, to which so many of us gave so much of ourselves….Live on, if not as one great organization, with members and programs and building, then live on in the hearts that loved you.”

 

May God continue to Bless the Polish American Citizens Club of Camden County for another 100 years!