The sky was overcast Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014 on North Pine Street in Wilmington, Del. The dull grey bleakness of the weather outside belied the brightness inside the Central Baptist Church in one of Wilmington’s rough and tumble neighborhoods.
About 50 people, who called themselves partners of one sort or another, strode into the basement of the church at 839 N. Pine St. to hear from Rev. Terrence S. Keeling, the church’s pastor.
But they weren’t there to hear the gospel, rather this group was to get an annual report from the pastor and others, about the progress of a revitalization effort called Eastside Rising.
“We chose to use an asset-based methodology,” Rev. Keeling said. “Working on what we can do, and not what we can’t.”
To hear him tell it – they’ve done a lot so far.
Eastside Rsing, a 501 c3 nonprofit organization, is hoping to put people to work, stall neighborhood violence, and revitalize the area through a grass roots effort which will help community members refurbish and resell abandoned properties, using local resources, Rev. Keeling said.
Calling Eastside Rising a dedicated community project, he sought out partners to help make his vision a reality, he said.
The partners in the room included business leaders, other nonprofits, and state and local government officials.
“When Governor Markell was here, he said we would have access to all his cabinet secretaries,” Rev. Keeling said. “And we surely did.”
That access resulted in a close relationship With the Delaware Workforce Investment Board, which led to other relationships, such as the Delaware Skill Center, and the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC).
These relationships resulted in the development of committees and trainings to help the church with such diverse function areas as workforce development, economic development, and urban acres farming.
Although several initiatives, such as a 20 workstation computer lab to assist resident’s with job search skills, are still in the works , the crown jewel of it all is refurbishing the area’s housing stock.
Given the data he outlined, Rev. Keeling should have a lot to work.
Close to 17 percent of the area’s housing stock is vacant; 62 percent are rentals; and the rest are owner occupied with less than 1,000 square feet for a family.
Rev. Keeling’s vision calls for the renovation of the houses by local workers who have been trained in construction trades. This he hopes will ultimately drive down the unemployment rate, mitigate crime, and improve home ownership making the Eastside a flourishing, safe, productive place to live.
Although there is still much for Eastside Rising to do, Rev. Keeling has made important contacts with organizations to bring it all together those linkages include:
- Wilmington Housing Authority
- University of Delaware Center for Community Research and Service
- Habitat for Humanity, New Castle County
- Local Union 55, LIUNA
- Delaware Skills Center
- Delaware Workforce Investment Board
- Several Banks
- And Several State Departments
After the detailed 90 minute presentation, the partners left the church basement with an attitude that seemed to brighten the grey day outside.
To learn more go to: https://centralbaptistcdc.com/