by Tim Jimenez

CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — Staff members and volunteers from a dozen different nonprofit organizations in Camden put their dancing shoes on today to try to spread some “happy” news about the city.

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The hot lights were on, the camera crews were getting into position, the producer was in the building, and the dancers were going over their routines.

It is not the typical setup work at Cathedral Kitchen, on Federal Street in Camden, which prepares and serves meals for the needy, six days a week.

But on this day, there was a little bit of show biz mixed into what they do to spread the message of The Goodness Project.

“It’s to promote goodness that happens every day in Camden,” explained Lauren White, development director for the Ronald McDonald House of Southern New Jersey, and a lead organizer with The Goodness Project.   “There’s a lot of negativity that comes out, but there’s another side of Camden we would like to show.”

So, White and her team reached out to 12 nonprofits within the city about putting together a music video inspired by the hit song “Happy,” by Pharrell Williams.   Video parodies from colleges and organizations of the Oscar-nominated song have gone viral through Youtube and social media.

White said they wanted to jump on the craze early and were even set to start filming in March, but Mother Nature forced them to push back production to this warm April day.

Steve Acito, a Haddon Heights, NJ native and owner of Bluewire Media, is working pro bono to put the video together with Haddonfield-based Steadicam operator David Schwartz and volunteers from Drexel University’s film department.

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“The reality is, the people who work hard (in Camden) do a really good job at helping everyone,” Acito said.

A few dozen people were the stars of the video.  One was Jonathan Jernigan, Cathedral Kitchen’s executive chef and culinary instructor.

“We’ve been practicing for the past two weeks — three weeks!” he said today.  “It’s like trying to make up what we’re going to do, and then we forget it all once it starts.  But we tried!”

Using a Michael Jackson-like kick and a lot of energy in a hot kitchen, Jernigan was joined by two of his sous chefs, chopping up some celery to the beat of the song.  He later used one of the celery stalks as a microphone during one scene.

There were plenty of smiles at Cathedral Kitchen, and Jernigan said it wasn’t just because the cameras were on.

“We want to show the whole world that Camden has some great things here to offer, and we’re trying to turn this city around,” he said.  “There are so many things you can be down about, but we’ve got to look at the positive things in life. Be happy, man!  It costs nothing to be happy.”

Organizers expect the video to be complete and released on April 18th.


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