Tuesday, March 2, 2010

3 Minute Interview with River East's Charles Wilson

The 3-minute interview: Charles Wilson
Markham Heid Examiner Staff WriterMarch 2, 2010

Wilson is acting president of the River East Emerging Leaders, a nonprofit community action group begun in February 2009 that comprises roughly 100 area residents. The group's goal is to stimulate economic development and civic interaction in those struggling neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River.

What is the mission of your organization?
We want to see more people active and involved in what's going on in our East River community, because that's how communities become better — when residents take ownership.

How did REEL get started?
We realized that we have a lot of folks here that just don't know each other. So last year we started hosting social activities, just to get people out talking and meeting with one another. We did some park cleanups. We did a green jobs forum. We're still really at day 1 1/2, but we've been working hard to build the organization.

What projects do you have coming up?
We're going to look at how we can increase the participation in entrepreneurship so that we can have businesses that are owned and operated by residents who live east of the river. We also know there needs to be a focus on youth activities, so we want to get some of the East River youth involved. We're talking about mentoring projects, and we're going to have a relationship forum about healthy relationships and how that can have a positive impact on the community.

Where do you hope to see your community in 15 years?
I don't want to see these rundown buildings anymore. I don't want to see abandoned retail stores. I want to see businesses, and I would love to see residents who live here own and operate these businesses. I want to see our youth active and involved in the community. And I want to see health be a priority in the community — eating healthy and exercising.

To learn more about REEL, visit reeldc.org!

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