With green, silver, black, and white balloons lining the walls and floating to the ceiling of Camden's City Hall, Mayor Frank Moran addressed a crowd on Monday afternoon ready for a celebration. The mayor pulled out an Eagles World Champions replica ring to enthusiastic applause.
"I've waited 50 years for this. And we celebrated big," he said. "Are there any Eagles fans in the house?"
As Mayor Moran at the podium and the crowd gathered in front of him cheered, Malcolm Jenkins, seated on stage behind the mayor, laughed and clapped along. While Camden residents love their Eagles, the real reason they assembled was to recognize Jenkins for his championship work in their community.
"Let me say, we're here to honor an amazing athlete but more importantly, an amazing human being," Moran said.
The Mayor's office awarded Jenkins with the Key to the City of Camden for the work he has done through The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation.
Jenkins' foundation works in his home state of New Jersey, in Pennsylvania where he plays now, in Ohio where he attended college, and in Louisiana where he began his NFL career with the New Orleans Saints. Monday marked the first time Jenkins has ever received the key to a city.
"I've received a ton of awards over my lifetime in sports, but this is one that's a huge honor for me," Jenkins said as he addressed the crowd. "As I look into this room, this is what really inspires me because the majority of people who are here are the ones who do the work day in and day out, and I have the ability to just bring it together."
In May, Jenkins worked with the Antioch Baptist Church to put on the "Get Ready Fest." The foundation partnered with Feed the Children and other community partners to provide hundreds of families with 25 pounds of food, 10 pounds of essential items, as well as health and wellness products.
His foundation also offers Camden residents access to health-related services including screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, asthma, eye and dental check-ups, GED classes, job training, and veteran/youth services. It was for these efforts that Jenkins was awarded the golden key accompanied by a framed Mayoral Proclamation.
"Malcolm Jenkins is truly a champion on and off the field, and that is why we are here today to honor him as a humanitarian, philanthropist, and socially conscious person who is making a difference in the lives of so many," Moran said. "I commend Malcolm for his commitment to Camden, the community, and I congratulate you for your incredible work."
Jenkins delivered his speech at the podium in front of Mayor Moran, Camden City Council members, Congressman Donald Norcross, Senator Nilsa Cruz Perez, Senator Jim Beach, members of the Camden County Freeholder Board, and Pastor John O. Parker of the Antioch Baptist Church.
These distinguished individuals presented Jenkins with four additional framed commendations for his service. Jenkins was also seated next to his mother, Gwendolyn V. Jenkins, the president of The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation.
"She makes a lot of these things go," Jenkins said. "I'll have ideas but she's really the true champion. So not only is this award an honor for me, but it's a tip of the hat to my mother, my board members, my family, and all those who volunteer and support us, so we can continue to do this work."
Take a look at the best photos from the ceremony in which Malcolm Jenkins received the key to the City of Camden.
Jenkins used the honor to announce an upcoming event in Camden scheduled for December. The foundation plans provide 135 families with surprise dinners and gifts in Camden and Philadelphia around the holidays. Jenkins used feedback from the "Get Ready Fest" to plan upcoming ways to remain in the footprint of the community.
The announcement was met with appreciative applause. Jenkins said that seeing the turnout and excitement for his ceremony provided motivation to give the resources, voice, and attention needed to reach everyday citizens in the area.
"I take it as an opportunity to thank everyone else," Jenkins said after the ceremony. "I recognize that I'm being honored and awarded, but at the end of the day, this goes right back to the community and all those who support me to be able to do all of this.
"I play football full time. So, all of the things that we see from my programs, from what I'm doing in the community, couldn't have been done without my mom, without my family, without my foundation, board members, volunteers, partners who donate, all of that. So, this award, I obviously dedicate right back to them."
Mayor Moran said that awarding Jenkins with the Key to the City was an easy decision even though it is a rare honor. He said that Jenkins and the city have the same vision in giving back to Camden residents.
"Beyond being a number one fan, I just believe what athletes and players do speaks volumes," said Moran after the ceremony. "The key is something that's not just given to anyone. It's a historic act with the City of Camden with someone who is worthy of it because of the way he is addressing the social issues in this country and in my City of Camden."
Through his foundation, Jenkins has impacted the communities in and around the cities he has called home. The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation continues to benefit people across the country and plans to continue its efforts in the city to which he now holds the key.
"Being a New Jersey native, this is special for me to be able to give back to my home state," Jenkins said. "We want to double down on our commitment to the City of Camden. We're not going away."