OUR GUEST SPEAKERS - Glenn and Essence Wilson Communities First, Inc.

Glenn Wilson and his wife Essence from Communities First, Inc. of Flint came to talk about the non-profit organization founded in 2010 to assist in rebuilding distressed communities. Their mission is to promote and provide affordable housing. The couple presented their current project which is the Oak Street Senior Apartments in the former Oak School. The school was originally built in 1856, rebuilt in 1898, then had a gymnasium addition in the ‘60s.

In the process of creating the new senior center, CFI wanted to maintain the historical character of the original buildings, so the gym was demolished to add another wing for housing. This new wing could then be constructed to create apartments that meet today’s barrier free requirements. It also allowed an elevator to be added for accessibility to all floors. Of the 24 total units, 8 barrier free apartments are available. Glen was successful in bringing $7.9M to Flint from HUD to develop this project. In his first attempt to get money from HUD, he was rejected. Not to be deterred, he regrouped, went back with a new plan and was able to secure the funding. No small feat.

Communities First, Inc. recently became registered as a Sustainable Performance Institute-HUD Accredited Organization. They are the only one in Michigan and one of 24 in the country. In keeping with their Sustainable focus, the apartments and public spaces included components from the original construction including, doors, wainscoting, transoms and chalkboards.The project struck a strong chord with people in the community who once attended the school. Former students and teachers stooped by and shared their stories of the building. Some were even looking over the place as a potential future residence.

Essence and Glen ended their presentation by asking for community participation on the level of being a resource, sharing advice, spending time with the organization, advocacy of their mission, making introductions, and monetary contributions, all to help the organization grow.

To find out more about Communities First, Inc., Oak Street Senior Apartments, or any other program, go to their website at http://www.communitiesfirstinc.org/

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